MELISSA is a proud Hoosier and Fort Wayne native. She hails from a long line of hardworking German and Belgian immigrant families. A family ethos of serving and championing others was instilled in MELISSA at a young age.
MELISSA received her undergraduate degree in Political Science from Indiana University-Fort Wayne (1992) while minoring in Spanish and Anthropology. She then attended the University of Texas-San Antonio for a Master's degree in Cultural Anthropology (1996) and years later obtained her doctorate in the same at Michigan State University (2006).
MELISSA is the Education Director at Neighborhood Health Clinic - a federally qualified health center that provides holistic healthcare to the disadvantaged. MELISSA also sits on the Legacy Joint Funding Committee with the City of Fort Wayne and serves on the Fort Wayne Sister Cities International board of directors.
MELISSA enjoys volunteering, writing, gardening, and enjoying a nice cup of coffee with friends.
MELISSA is a proud single-mother to a new teacher. Raising Sedona while dancing with poverty more than once, as recently as four years ago, wasn't easy. She understands first-hand why women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men. And, how women of color and women with disabilities experience poverty at alarmingly higher rates. Women constitute nearly 52% of the population in Allen County and 20% are living in poverty. In fact, it's estimated that 40% of single mothers have incomes below the federal poverty line.
MELISSA also understands how a wage gap of 24% between women and men in Allen County impacts the social determinants of health for their families. Everything from housing to healthcare to food on the table is determined by a woman's ability to secure a living-wage job.
Once elected, I'll approach
every issue by...
Analyzing relevant data and past experiences
Considering the perspectives and needs of ALL residents
Recognizing and building upon existing community strengths and assets
Promoting the use of existing plans and strategies that were developed through meaningful community input
MELISSA'S CAREER PATH
MELISSA was a university professor for much of her career and enjoyed teaching a great deal. As a trained cultural anthropologist, she conducted research and writing, but MELISSA'S path changed when a 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti in January, 2010. Her research area was never in Haiti, she didn't know anyone in Haiti, and had never even been to Haiti, but MELISSA was touched in an inexplicable way. She organized a city-wide Haitian relief effort a week after the earthquake struck which resulted in the collection of 17 tons of rice, beans, and water. Donations were flown in two shipments to Port Au Prince courtesy of the State Department and FedEx. After planning this event, she knew her calling was elsewhere. Two years later, MELISSA returned to Fort Wayne and forged a new career path.
MELISSA has worked for area non-profits ever since. Serving at-risk communities is extremely gratifying work and as many have said, a 'perfect fit for someone like MELISSA. Her training in culture, research, writing, education, development and public speaking have been tremendous assets for working in the human services field. "I feel blessed to go to work every day knowing that I'm helping people where they're at."
And, it's for these very reasons MELISSA ran for Perry Township Trustee in 2018. This elected office offers poor relief and emergency rescue services to township residents - two areas she couldn't be more supportive of. By running for office, MELISSA learned a great deal about herself and her community. She remains forever grateful for the experience and made many new friends along the way.
This is why MELISSA ran for the new State House District 82 in 2022. "I simply want to serve my community and thought I'd try to make history in becoming the first Democratic woman elected to the General Assembly." Although she didn't prevail, there's no denying, "Civic engagement is in my blood."