Angels on Earth-Melina Brann
Courtesy Photo-Melina Brann with Artwork
A steady beacon in what appears to be a stormy sea is an excellent anchor to have. The Woman's Center of Greater Lansing is just such a place. Executive Director Melina Brann has been at the helm of the 15-year old organization for two years. "We are one of Lansing's best-kept secrets," said Brann. "We don't want to be that anymore. We want and need everyone to know that we are here!"
Brann was a client turned job applicant after receiving the help she needed through a rough situation. "I saw there was a job opening, and the timing was right," said Brann.
Brann has a background in therapy. She attended Grand Valley State, where she received her Master’s Degree in social work with a generalist perspective.
The Women's Center's mission is to empower women and overall help them reach their potential. They carry out their task in a variety of ways. "Our most effective method to help women is through providing mental health counseling," she said. Brann explained that the Center offers its services based on an income base rather than an insurance base. The Center helps women with a low income and no insurance. The Center also has a career services program complete with a computer lab. The Center’s staff allows women to work on their resumes, cover letters, and apply for jobs. They also have a professional clothes closet where clients can get that perfect suit of armor. "Our clients can get these services for free," said Brann. "One of our biggest services is providing personal needs like shampoo conditioner, pads, and tampons to women for free as well."
The official mission and vision statement for the Women's Center:
The Women’s Center of Greater Lansing is committed to providing valuable, innovative resources and services in an atmosphere that fosters mutual support, insight, and growth for women of all backgrounds and ages as they strive to realize their unique potential.
We visualize a community where all women have the opportunity and ability to achieve their unique potential.
The Women's Center's founders realized that women in the Lansing community, especially survivors of abuse and sexual misconduct, needed a place where they could go to receive services without the fear of being judged harshly. "Finances is often a barrier to getting the help they need," noted Brann. The sliding scale and free services make the Women's Center the ideal place to go for women in need. "We can provide the counseling in-house," said Brann. "However, for other services like housing, we refer those services out."
Courtesy Photo-Melina Brann
Brann, originally from Battle Creek, moved to the Lansing area after college with her ex-husband. "I stayed in the Lansing area because I fell in love with the people here in Lansing.
As executive director of the Women’s Center, Brann pays attention to the big picture for the Center and the day to day. "Our biggest challenge is funding,” said Brann. “Since we are not a domestic violence shelter, we don’t qualify for federal funds. We do, however, rely heavily on our community for funding.”
Brann considers the Center’s counseling to be their specialty. “Counseling is what we do the most,” said Brann. On a personal note, Brann acknowledges that seeing former clients come back to the Center all smiles makes her the happiest. "That is super nice to see," said Brann. "Especially after the year, everyone has been through."
The Pandemic has presented some pluses and minuses. "It works well for women who need counseling," said Brann, "However, the victims of sexual or physical abuse still living with their abusers need the escape of the Center."
In addition to being an angel by day, Brann is an artist. “I love to paint,” said Brann. “I make portraits and sell them on the side.” Brann related that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up. Those dreams changed when her sister had a traumatic brain injury while they were children. "We had an awesome social worker," said Brann. "I wanted to be just like her."
Planning for the future. In two years from now, Brann hopes she can hire a full-time crisis counselor. "We currently have a long waiting list for counseling," said Brann. "This is a pressing need." In five years, she hopes to see the Center grow into a bigger space. Anyone looking for more information or to donate to a worthy cause can check the Women’s Center out at http://www.womenscenterofgreaterlansing.org/.