Leadership

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Melissa has demonstrated creativity and vision in her leadership. She exemplifies an outstanding philanthropist because she didn’t choose the traditional route of simply donating to a non-profit agency. Rather, she invested in a community--a community of people who selflessly raised their hand to protect our everyday freedoms. Without any military connection to speak of, Melissa saw the need and chose to make an investment with great risk to her personal finances. As a Co-Founder of Clear Path for Veterans, Melissa personally funded the acquisition of a 75 acre tranquil property in Chittenango, NY knowing it would provide a place of respite for the Veteran community. Her financial support hasn’t ended there as she has continued to give back to CPV by not having ever collected a pay check since CPV opened its doors in 2011. Her countless hours and tireless efforts to support the Veteran community has grown CPV from an all-volunteer lead agency to now 27 paid staff members serving 1,300 Veterans per month proving her leadership capabilities.

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Melissa has a keen ability to inspire those around her to become better stewards of their community. The organization she leads had no precedent – there was no model she could copy. Melissa demonstrated faith in her vision through her passion and through hard, dedicated work. Because of Melissa’s leadership, Clear Path for Veterans has set the standard of what a welcoming community not only looks like, but feels like. Melissa is clearly an example of someone whose leadership makes a difference because she took this on as her personal mission.

Since Melissa opened the doors to Clear Path for Veterans six years ago she has grown it from a Veteran agency that saw 100 Veterans a month to now 1,300 monthly. Those Veterans and their family members come to Clear Path usually with a great need. Just because their military service ended, their desire to give back to their community did not. Often times, there are hurdles they need to overcome in order to productively give back to their community. Clear Path, under Melissa's vision and guidance supports their challenges which are generally related to of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries, and/or Military Sexual Trauma. Clear Path supports those needs (all free of charge) by helping them find civilian employment, access to Integrative Medicine (such as massage, accu-puncture, reiki, polarity), setting them up with a Veteran Peer Mentor, utilizing our service dog program, or allowing them a space for camaraderie at our weekly free Canteen lunch. These programs and services support the Veteran, their family and ultimately the military community at large which impacts our communities both regionally and nationally.

I most admire Melissa's entrepreneurial spirit. Her ability to see a need in the community and bring it to life is awe-inspiring. The business of non-profit is competitive and hectic. Having the ability to start a non-profit and in six short years grow it from a $100K to 1.8M budget is impressive-- as many don't make it. She also knows how to partner with others to avoid duplication of services-- a business model many don't follow due to ego. Her lack of ego is what makes her and Clear Path genuine.

Clear Path has recently launched a new program to create healthy, anti-inflammatory meals for Veterans with a cancer diagnosis. Using mostly organic foods, we create nutritious and appetizing meals using a combination of ingredients that will reduce inflammation in the body to support Veterans undergoing treatment. Three meals will be provided seven days each week for a six-month period per Veteran. Additionally, any family members living in the same household will also be given the option of receiving the meals in an effort to support the family and reduce its workload during this medical crisis. Volunteers – both adult and teenagers – will work in the kitchen to prepare, create and package the meals, bringing forth a youth development component. Volunteers will deliver the meals twice each week to the Veterans. This program encompasses and impacts the community in a myriad of ways. The Veterans will benefit from healthy and delicious meals. The family will be provided a sense of relief from having to manage meal preparation during a stressful time. The youth development component will reinforce community service initiatives while teaching the valuable lesson of giving back, and our volunteers will be introduced to the breadth of need for both Veterans and those who are ill. An award of $50,000 would cover our costs for this program for an entire year supporting Veterans with cancer.

Melissa is clearly an example of someone whose leadership makes a difference. She's not afraid of failure, and in fact uses it as a teachable moment for her staff. She takes her vision and makes it a reality with significant impact on her personal finances and time. She works tirelessly to educate the community about the need for a strong Veteran community and her passion is infectious. She is a natural leader and we are all better for being a part of her journey.

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