Gracehaven's Outreach Program
Gracehaven has several programs. One of our most exciting active programs is our Outreach. With the recent reorganization of the company last April and Megan Crawford moving to the role of Chief Operating Officer, we hired Melissa Neime Nathan to replace Megan as the Outreach Case Manager.
We want to introduce you to Melissa and let you know about some of the work she oversees.
Melissa Niemie Nathan is a licensed social worker. She graduated summa cum laude from The Ohio State University with a bachelor's degree in social work and a master's degree in clinical social work. Her professional experience includes: case management with homeless families through the Salvation Army, addiction treatment (group and individual therapy) through the Columbus Public Health Department and ER / OB social work with Mount Carmel. Additionally, Melissa spent a quarter while pursuing her BSSW working with street children in Chennai, India, a quarter after graduation working on a community development project in Uzbekistan, and most recently 3 years serving as an outreach coordinator with families impacted by HIV/AIDS in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Melissa has had a distinct calling towards social justice and marginalized people from a young age (12) when she began regularly working at Vineyard Columbus' food pantry. She has particular grace and passion for females who have been prostituted, females who are addicted and incarcerated females.
Melissa has been married to her kindergarten sweetheart and best friend for 11 years and is mother to 3 fantastic boys: Jude (9), Asher (6) and Marcus (3). In Melissa's free time she tries to squeeze in as much NPR, reading, and ethnic food as possible!
Melissa regularly goes to Scioto Correctional Facility (Department of Youth Services) to run two groups a week. Read Melissa's account below:
"In many ways it is a typical prison scene from any movie or television program. First, I enter through a locked door and after handing over my ID, going through a metal detector and being patted down I enter through three more locked doors. No surprise because this is a maximum security State facility, right? I believe the biggest surprise is the one that awaits me each week on the other side of these numerous security check points - and that is two groups of tender-hearted and yet world-weary girls. And girls are exactly what they are - some of them are as young as 13, and many can be found cuddling up with a stuffed animal or sucking their thumbs during group.
I have had the privilege of facilitating two psycho-educational groups focused on boundaries and healthy relationships at the Scioto Juvenile Correctional Facility. I meet with 16 girls on a weekly basis. The girls I meet with were hand picked by the social worker and psychologist at the facility. Several of them already have a history of being trafficked and others were identified based on risk factors (history of running away, convicted of a sexual offense, gang affiliation). Much of the "work" that we do together in group is in the form of introducing the girls to the concepts of love, respect and boundaries. A recent exercise revealed that 9 out of 10 of the girls reported a history of sexual abuse and 8 out of 10 of them have come through the foster care system. A majority of the girls have expressed that not only did they not have a reasonable example of love, respect or boundaries within their family units, but they were left vulnerable, and often violated and preyed upon by those who were expected to protect them. As you can imagine, this history makes a girl tremendously vulnerable to traffickers. I truly believe that this preventative and healing work is essential to both finding and freeing the most defenseless amongst us."
OSU Star House Outreach
Another outreach Gracehaven does is at STAR House OSU Star House. STAR house is a drop in center for homeless youth. Every Tuesday night a Gracehaven volunteer provides a meal to the kids who drop in. Please read her account below:
"Twice a month I have the privilege of serving a meal at the Star House. Its a privilege because the blessings that I have received from that service far exceed any time or monetary input. While I appreciate the thank you's and praises of my cooking (even when its Costco), its the opportunity to show love, compassion, and forgiveness that keeps me coming back."
Outreach Volunteer Opportunities
We need more volunteers to help purchase the food, cook and provide a meal and spend time with the at risk kids at STAR house. If you are interested in volunteering your time please contact Kendra, our Volunteer and Special Event Coordinator at email@example.com.