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Meet Trailblazer Melissa Acedera

Today we’d like to introduce you to Melissa Acedera.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
One word – family.

I’m finding that at the core of everything I do, I find myself focused on how the work benefits family, mine and anyone else’s. I will often ask myself, “How will this work lend itself to improving someone else’s life, and will this make their family life better?”

My Dad passed away from complications from diabetes in 2005, our loss of him changed our entire family dynamic and I found myself at the front line with my Mom. I delayed my own dreams so I could work to help support us, it changed my trajectory and forced me to mature in ways that helped the work I do now. Basic life skills of home management, budgeting, navigating daily logistics, all the trappings of managing a home and family life – I shouldered with my mom. Little did I know, that slowly mastering these crucial life skills over time would help my work in organizing outreach teams, behind-the-scenes planning of community workshops and events – all focused on supporting the homeless, low-income immigrant families in underserved areas.

Today, I help organize homeless outreach teams doing work in Skid Row. We do this weekly, providing hot meals, tents, blankets, clothing, and many support items to our unhoused friends. My work is focused on operations and logistics, as well as finding donors and sourcing our food items. Throughout my life (since starting community service work in high school), I have always been drawn to addressing food insecurity. From volunteering at the Los Angeles Food Bank to the Union Rescue Mission and various soup kitchens, I noticed that my heart was always centered around food and people. I love that my biggest contribution to our current work in Skid Row is finding healthy, delicious, quality food to share with our homeless friends. I do this through partnerships with non-profits, food banks, and businesses involved in food waste and food sustainability– redirecting food that would otherwise go to a landfill and redirecting them to the hands of those who need it most.

Has it been a smooth road?
I think the one truth we need to be transparent about with any young person starting their journey is the road to our dreams is never smooth, the journey to success is not linear. That it’s okay to try many things before you find a place that feels right, and it will take many moments of failing to come to your first hit of success. As a child of immigrant parents, the struggles were always visible to me growing up, I saw my parents working two or three jobs to support my brothers and me. Then my time came early when my dad passed, so I took the baton and continued to work, but I’m grateful for the hardship because it got me to where I am today.

My advice to any young person starting their journey is to intern or volunteer (if their financial situation and time permits) as much as they can. My exposure to various organizations and companies, allowed me to learn different skill sets (at no cost) and often out in the field. This kept my mind fresh with ideas and help pave the way of finding work that feels incredibly meaningful to me and one I’m very passionate about.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
The people I work with will always describe me as behind-the-scenes. I thrive in doing the work required to get things organized, from daily operations to finding resources. As a young professional, I’ve worked at family-owned businesses, consulted for-profit and non-profits, anything which involves improving the function of a project, business entity– working with the bones of anything that requires improvement in order for it to grow and work better, I’m always there.

Right now, I’m focused a lot on the food work behind our homeless outreach. So, I’m building this by partnering with food banks and non-profits so we can create a steady network of food to provide to families and individuals in need.

My mom said to me the other day, “You are really good at penetrating the needs of a community. You know where to find the people who need the most help.” And that is HUGE. At my core, that’s what I always want to do. How can I protect and help our most vulnerable? That’s where I’m always going to go.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
My mom, my grandmothers, my aunties, my cousins, my friends, my colleagues, my teammates, so many women…

The deeper I go into community work, the clearer it is to me that women really do run the world. At the front lines of our homeless work are women, from organizing to cooking to serving. I am fortunate to have women in my life who I see as community moms- they are the women who not only provide nourishment and love to their own children but the entire neighborhood. For instance, I’ll be at their house dropping of food for our outreach work, and at least five kids will be coming through their home for food or just to hang out. The attention and care they give these kids matters so much and they are all at the heart of these communities.

I’m telling you if you want to penetrate a community and create change? You find the elders, the community moms, the women behind the scenes — they are the ones who hold the keys.

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Image Credit:
Melissa Acedera

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