Community Connections: Melissa Barnett

“The one thing about Mary Rigg staff was that it was one of the very few places where I could just have trauma…”

Melissa was 18 when she aged out of foster care. She found herself at Sheltering Wings, a shelter that helps survivors of domestic violence. All this was happening while Melissa was trying to finish high school. She found out about Mary Rigg’s transitional housing program through a friend and decided to apply. Once she was accepted, she started taking a life skills class that taught various things like balancing checkbooks, healthy relationships, cooking, and more.

Melissa shied away from wanting to get involved in social services as a career, instead aiming to go into marketing but she kept getting pulled back in. While at Mary Rigg, she noticed that for the first time, she had found other people like her, people who had traumatic childhoods and had gone through the foster system. That realization led her to a career, but she wasn’t sure how it would work itself out. Fast forward to 7 years ago when she started volunteering at Dathouse – an organization that helps foster mixed income communities. With Melissa being the most dependable and reliable volunteer, DATHouse asked her to take over for the director of family services while she was away on maternity leave. Melissa developed a program there that was different than the model currently in use. DATHouse loved it and after the original director decided to step back, they asked Melissa to take that role full time.

Since taking that role, Melissa has helped develop programs aimed to support people with trauma. This April, her team started a support group for women over 18 who have experienced trauma. “One of the core beliefs I have that brings healing is relations —in being able to relate to one another— and deep human connection.”  This belief has allowed Melissa to develop healthy relationships, including the one with her husband of 15 years and their three children.

When asked about what Melissa learned from her time at Mary Rigg she said: “The one thing about Mary Rigg staff was that it was one of the very few places where I could just have trauma and if there was a weird response from me or a triggered thought, they never questioned that. It created for me a trust in my own employment when I looked at DATHouse because that is what I get from leadership. That is really cool to not only have experienced that as a participant at Mary Rigg, but now I am part of that environment where clients are supported and anyone who comes in can have trauma and there’s no question if they act weird or strange. That is one of my favorite lessons from Mary Rigg.“

We are so proud of Melissa and all the hard work she has put into helping the community. To learn more about Melissa and DATHouse, check out their Instagram @DATHouse or their website.