Who is Melanie?
Melanie grew up in a very economically and culturally diverse family and community. As a connector, she sought to connect people with a focus on common values and humor. She is someone who has “worn many hats” and found her love of people in every role. She began her career working in the YMCA movement. Over 16 years, Melanie directed areas of membership, day camps, aquatics, youth programs and all areas of fitness. During that time, she oversaw the financial assistance and outreach programs.
With a focus on service to the community, her team consistently reached the #1 national ranking for member services. Serving populations each day that varied from wealthy to marginalized, Melanie led staff to celebrate diversity and create community spaces where everyone could engage and thrive. While navigating a full-time Y career, Melanie graduated from Springfield College with a bachelor’s degree in human services.
Frequently encountering individuals experiencing homelessness, Melanie felt called to focus on providing basic needs. She took on the role of executive director with Kennett Area Community Service, a small, grassroots agency that originally operated as a food pantry. As the agency expanded into housing and homelessness, relationships became the primary focus as it served many of the same families for six decades. Seeking a model that addresses the complexity of poverty while holistically serving the person, Melanie learned about Bridges Out of Poverty.
Offering Getting Ahead in a Just Gettin’-by World classes was the first step in transforming the agency. Melanie moved Getting Ahead graduates into leadership and staff positions within the agency. She then began leading the local collective impact group, the Southern Chester County Opportunity Network, which tackled community issues related to housing, transportation, and collaboration.
Melanie felt called to bring the Bridges constructs to the larger community and now serves as the director of operations at the Chester County Food Bank, working on systemic issues, supporting the launch of community collectives, and fostering cross-sector collaboration. She continues to serve locally on the boards of a local community health foundation and a social services agency.
Melanie’s aha! moment
I had many aha! moments over the years, but I didn’t understand how they all fit together until I attended the Bridges Out of Poverty workshop. One big moment was recognizing my role in recruiting and hiring under-resourced individuals to positions based on their potential to learn and excel instead of looking for the “perfect” candidate. I stopped following conventional advice to screen employees based on the grammar and punctuation on their resume or their physical appearance during the interview. I found less-conventional ways to get to the heart of the candidate. Those considered “unqualified or inattentive” became admired and awarded employees, heavily recruited by other employers.
Building high-achieving teams has become my passion and expertise, with a focus on folks who haven’t gotten many opportunities. I find the “rising star” in every employee, moving them from stagnant jobs to strong career paths, to pursue educational opportunities and positions of leadership.
Melanie’s best training
I feel they are all valuable, and I have learned much at each one. I find the Workplace Stability training to be valuable for every sector, recognizing the benefits to both companies and employees.
What does Melanie do for fun?
I love to spend time with family and friends and, of course, with my Boston terrier. I love camping, hiking, cooking, and baking. I will someday own a campground and spend four months a year RVing around the U.S.