By Angela Higginbotham
Melissa Nelson is a Northeast Florida native who grew up on beautiful Amelia Island. She earned her degree in Public Relations from the University of Florida and has spent the majority of her career in the non-profit setting. After working with the Chamber of Commerce and other associations, she became a stay at home mom of twins, McKenna and Max. Family first, Nelson enjoyed 15 years of volunteering in areas where her children were involved. A former soccer coach, PTO member, and booster board member, Nelson transitioned back into the workforce in 2014, just three years ago.
“The fast pace never changes from frantic. I’m just as busy now as when the kids were small,” Nelson said.
Currently serving as president and CEO of United Way of St. Johns County, Nelson is passionate about helping those in need, particularly those in St. Johns County. She and her husband, Brad, a real estate appraiser, have been married for 30 years and enjoy living in Julington Creek Plantation. The twins have entered college, but still keep Mom and Dad busy. The Nelsons are also the owners of Certus Appraisal Group.
- What is your favorite thing about living in St. Johns County?
When we moved to Julington Creek our twins were two years old. Now they are 20 years old and we still love it. We wanted a great place to bring up a family. The schools have gone from good to great. I love the neighbors. We always laugh and say “it takes a village” because we all helped so much with each others’ kids. It’s been such a great place to raise a family. I also love being near the beach.
- What do you enjoy most about your work with United Way of St. Johns County?
No two days are alike. Especially after I became more aware and learned more about what they do within the community, I’m very proud to be involved. The organization has been raising funds for 60 years, donating more than $25 million for nonprofits in the community. They make such a difference. I love the opportunity to come alongside people when they need help the most.
- What’s one message that you would like for the community to understand through your work with United Way?
We often identify homelessness in our area with Jacksonville. Frequently, downtown Jacksonville may be what first comes to a person’s mind, but right here in St. Johns County, there are over 800 documented homeless students. These kids are sitting next to our kids in school. This is such a giving community. We all face challenges, and it’s so important to realize that this is relevant right here in St. Johns County. Many families need our help.
- How do you enjoy spending your time outside of work?
We enjoy the beach. I love being on the water, family in tow, with a great book and a lovely glass of wine. We also love to travel. My favorite place is my next adventure. I find something I love everywhere I go.
- Do you have a favorite book you’d like to share?
I don’t think I can pick just one. I love to read. I’ve been in the same book club for probably about 12 years or so with the same group of 10 women from Julington Creek. We read all kinds of things.
Photo courtesy Daron Dean