Meet the DEC Staff: Melissa Hawkins

We like to take a moment on our blog to introduce you to the hardworking people that make up our staff at the Disability Empowerment Center.  Today we sit down with Melissa Hawkins, the Executive Director of DEC.  Deaf since birth, Melissa is keenly sensitive to the issues that persons with disabilities deal with everyday.

Melissa HawkinsHow did you end up working at Disability Empowerment Center?

I was late in discovering the Independent Living philosophy; it changed my whole life.

I knew then I wanted to work in the Independent Living field for the rest of my life.  I worked at another Center for Independent Living with some of my current staff members and was thrilled to learn of the opening here at DEC.

Why did you want to work for DEC?

Being a person with a disability, I live the Independent Living Philosophy every day.  Many people don’t even know what this is.  It took me a long time to learn about this myself, but once I discovered this, there was no turning back.

I’ve always wanted to empower and inspire people.  I want to show people that having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish all of your dreams and goals.

Independent Living Centers help people everyday.  I’ve always wanted to help others embrace the Independent Living philosophy, and DEC has allowed me to do this.

What is your job title and what do you do at DEC?

I am the Executive Director here at DEC and am responsible for the day to day operations and management of the center. I develop and implement DEC’s programs and activities. I also establish procedures. I have the responsibility for all fiscal matters. I oversee agency, individual, community, and legislative activities and coordinate these with local, state, and national groups. One of the most important parts of my job is to promote the Independent Living (IL) movement by educating the public. I also represent DEC on committees, boards, and task forces.

What is your favorite part about your job?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint what I love most about my job.  No day is ever the same, so I sometimes feel like I have a different job five days a week! I love seeing consumers come in and leave smiling.  I love sharing with the staff on goals accomplished.  I love talking about our services with the community and other agencies.

Most of all, I love knowing that we give hope to others.

What does “empowerment” mean to you?

Empowerment means to give or show someone they can do anything.

Here at DEC, we empower anyone who comes to us for assistance.

We show them they have the capabilities to accomplish anything.  Nothing is impossible.

You can read more about Melissa by clicking here.