In her new role at Hickory Log Vocational School, Melissa Hunt enjoys building "genuine" relationships with the nonprofit's residents.
"Hickory Log is a personal care home for men with developmental and intellectual disabilities," she said. "Licensed for 24 residents, Hickory Log is currently home to 21 residents, ranging in age from 36 to 83.
"Hickory Log is a long-term home for these gentlemen. Some of them have been with us since the 1970s."
As Hickory Log's house manager, Hunt oversees a staff of 15 and the residents' daily activities and care.
Situated at 3680 Highway 411 in White, Hickory Log was established in 1970 to meet the needs of Bartow residents who before had to use out-of-county facilities.
• Name: Melissa Hunt
• Age: 37
• Occupation (title): Hickory Log house manager
• City of residence: Cartersville
• Family: I am blessed with two great kids: Gracie Bridges, 14, and Preston Bridges, 12.
• Education: I graduated from Woodland High c/o 2000. Most of my certifications and trainings are from [Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities] DBHDD, Crisis Prevention Institute and a Georgia Mandated Reporter certification from [Child Protective Services] CPS.
The Daily Tribune News: When and why did you join Hickory Log Vocational School, and how did you get into this line of work?
MH: I started work as a teenage volunteer at Flowering Branch Children’s Shelter in high school, which ignited my passion for helping others. I explored other areas and careers, like law enforcement and HR/Recruitment, but my heart is in human services. I joined Hickory Log as a temporary administrative assistant to the director and previous house manager, but soon became a full-time member of the operations team.
DTN: How has your role changed since joining Hickory Log’s staff, and what are your current responsibilities?
MH: I started off as administrative assistant and immediately [assumed] the role of volunteer coordinator. During my first few months, I was fortunate to learn and absorb a lot of information from the — then — house manager. Upon her departure, I was offered the position of house manager. I have been in this role since late June of this year. It is my responsibility to coordinate all aspects of the residents’ daily lives; this includes their community activities, medical appointments, medicine administration, finances, and basic health and safety. This is not done alone; I manage a direct care staff of 15 amazing individuals. Having such compassionate staff makes my job easier.
DTN: What do you enjoy most about working at Hickory Log and being a part of these men's lives?
MH: In comparison to other organizations that I have worked for, I love that Hickory Log is long term. There is not a high turnover rate in residents. That allows us as staff to build a true genuine relationship with them, similar to what one may have with a grandfather or uncle. These men are family, to us and to each other.
DTN: What have been some/or one of your most memorable or rewarding moments while working at Hickory Log?
MH: Seeing these men participate in community events, like Food Truck Friday/Euharlee and Music by the Tracks/downtown Cartersville, and seeing the public’s reaction is priceless. It is a true example that Hickory Log is part of the Bartow County community. They are vibrant and active members of this community and anyone that has the pleasure of interacting with our residents quickly realize that. I truly enjoy seeing the childlike excitement that live music brings to them.
DTN: Looking ahead, what are some of your goals for Hickory Log?
MH: It is my goal to continue incorporating Hickory Log into the community as much as possible. As a lifelong resident of Bartow County, I have a vast number of connections and resources that are continuing to benefit this program in multiple ways.
DTN: What is your greatest professional or personal achievement?
MH: My greatest personal achievements are definitely my children. I am proud to be raising two amazing young people that will prove to be valuable members of society.
My greatest professional achievement is being exactly where I am now. There is no doubt that my past professional experiences led me to be successful as the Hickory Log house manager.
DTN: How would you describe yourself in three words?
MH: Passionate, witty and reliable
DTN: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
MH: I enjoy planning weddings, parties, fundraisers and other special events.
DTN: What is the best advice you have ever received?
MH: Stop trying to do everything by myself. I have learned that I can be more successful if I delegate to others. Thank you, Patty Eagar, for forcing me to learn this skill.
DTN: What do you like to do in your spare time?
MH: I enjoy serving and volunteering at my church, Crosspoint City Church. I am currently connected to the Students Ministry, apprenticing with the Community Engagement team and start classes for CPCC School of Ministry next week.
DTN: Where is your favorite place to be in Bartow County?
MH: I enjoy going to the lake, the river or anywhere else that my family and friends has planned to cook out and spend time together.