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    Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads-Northwest Annex Navy Exchange Manager supports military community for 45 years

    Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads-Northwest Annex Navy Exchange Manager supports military community for 45 years

    Photo By Katisha Draughn-Fraguada | Maxine Bell-Culley (left), Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads-Northwest Annex Navy...... read more read more



    Story by Katisha Draughn-Fraguada 

    Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads

    In 1977 when Maxine Bell-Culley began her job as an entry sales clerk at the Northwest Annex Navy Exchange (NEX), she did not think that 45 years later she would have impacted so many employees, colleagues, and customers, all while working at a job that she has always loved.

    Bell-Culley initially applied for the sales clerk position after a military family member, who attended her church and was the supervisor at that location, asked if she knew anyone looking for a job.

    “I immediately said, ‘Yes, me!’” said Bell-Culley. “She asked me on a Sunday and I went in the next day for the interview and was hired the same day.”

    Over the years, Bell-Culley was assigned to work as a sales clerk, gas station attendant, mobile equipment operator, specialty sales clerk, retail annex operator, supervisor, and manager. She held all of these positions at NEX stores at Northwest Annex; Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT); Wallops Island; Norfolk Main; Huntington Hall; Dam Neck; Portsmouth Scott Center; Portsmouth Fleet Store and Package Store; and Sugar Grove.

    In 2004, Bell-Culley found herself back at the Naval Support Activity Hampton Roads-Northwest Annex NEX as the store manager.

    “In my position, I provide support and assistance to the Navy Exchange Team as we serve the military men and women and their families by providing goods and services at a savings and support quality of life programs on base,” said Bell-Culley. “It is also my responsibility to oversee the staff, maintain proper inventory levels, financial accountability, and provide retail and service functions to our military members, their families, and our business partners.”

    Bell-Culley provides that service and support to the military community without hesitation and interacts with people from all walks of life to include military members, civilians, retirees, dependents, and family members.

    “If a customer ever needs something, Maxine will do everything in her power to ensure that she is meeting their needs,” said Cora Emig, specialty sales clerk at the Northwest Annex NEX. “She is just such a really nice person and she genuinely cares for everyone that she meets.”

    Brett Haftel, Tidewater NEX District Operations Manager, has worked with Bell-Culley for 10 years and values the experience and professionalism that she brings to her position and the NEX store.

    “After 45 years with the company, Maxine is truly an expert in her field. She knows what it takes to support the NEX mission, her customers, and associates,” he said. “She is the best there is and is at the top of her game. The annual associate satisfaction surveys and the daily online customer comments demonstrate this all the time.”

    However, being the best there is could not have prepared Bell-Culley for the drastic change that the entire country would endure at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

    “That season made me realize that life as we knew it will never be the same. So many things have changed and people have changed to adapt to the pandemic, yet I resolved to maintain a standard of excellence in the workplace,” she said. “Thankfully, we never completely ran out of anything requested by the customers due to prior established business partnerships. Many companies were eager to support the military members first and or provide substitutes until replenishment occurred.”

    Although the NEX store did not suffer significantly during the pandemic, there were still some challenges and obstacles that Bell-Culley had to overcome in her managerial position.

    “I have always viewed challenges as an opportunity to make a difference within my circle of influence. We did experience continued staff shortages, COVID-19 restriction-of-movement, and supply issues during that year,” she said. “However, we partnered with our headquarters team and local business partners to take care of our customers with whatever goods were available.”

    The responsibility of taking care of the customers also meant that Bell-Culley would work at the store six to seven days a week to cover shifts and make sure the team did not become burnt out. This selfless act is one of the many characteristics that Bell-Culley’s employees and colleagues admire about her as a person and manager.

    “She truly is the face of the store,” said Timothy Reid, delivery driver for the NEX. “And she always makes everyone feel like they are number one when they walk in the door.”

    Under Bell-Culley’s managerial leadership, the Northwest Annex NEX has received the prestigious Bingham Award nine times. The Bingham Award was established in 1979 to recognize excellence in customer service, operations and management at NEX activities. The award is presented to the best of the best NEXs in nine sales categories for overall financial results and customer service. Bell-Culley also received the Bingham Award when she worked at CINCLANTFLT in 1999.

    “I may not have always made the right decisions, but it's important to maintain high standards and expectations and not settle for less than,” she said. “After receiving the 2020 Bingham Award with everything that occurred that year, it gave me a stronger desire to make the Navy Exchange an even greater place for our team to work and give our customers a greater shopping experience.”

    For 45 years, Bell-Culley has done just that and more for her customers.

    “Maxine’s biggest contribution is her dedication and extreme commitment to the Sailors, Marines, and all customers who shop her store to give them the very best in customer service and product selection, and support the base and leadership in any way possible,” said Haftel.

    Bell-Culley’s strong work ethic was instilled in her as a child and has made a huge impact on who she is today.

    “I was raised by my parents to be wise, polite, independent, treat people the way I want to be treated, and respect myself and others,” she said.

    Bell-Culley comes from a large family and is the third of nine children born to Randolph and Maudell Bell. She is married to her husband, Ronnie Culley, and they have three children, Asha, Ronnie II, and Nita. She also has grandchildren, Tavares, Marquell, Jazmine, D'Aija, Jeremiah, Jayden, Legend and Dallas; son-in-laws Horace and Fred; as well as a special daughter and family members, Heavenly, Maurice, Justus and Alivia.

    “I am truly blessed and I do not take my life and what I have been blessed to achieve for granted,” she said. “All of the glory for anything I do will always belong to God who gave me the strength and ability to lead others. It is my goal every day to be a blessing to someone in word or deed.”

    Although Bell-Culley enjoys getting up each day and coming to the NEX store and supporting the military community as she has done for the past 45 years, the thought of retiring does cross her mind pretty often.

    “I still truly enjoy working with the Navy Exchange, and meeting new people, but in the midst of all that, yes, I am making plans to retire in a few years,” she said. “I just have a few more things I would like to accomplish.”

    Bell-Culley has truly impacted the lives of everyone she has met over these past four decades, and will leave a lasting impression on her team members and future managers to come.

    “I work with an amazing group of individuals at Northwest that embrace and adapt to change while knowing the true meaning of teamwork,” she said. “I'm honored to serve our military families, as well as the ability to develop long lasting relationships with our customers.”



    Date Taken: 02.07.2022
    Date Posted: 02.07.2022 09:31
    Story ID: 414161
    Location: CHESAPEAKE , VA, US

    Web Views: 105
    Downloads: 0