In 2007, Melissa Juneau took the reins of the Baton Rouge Speech and Hearing Foundation. Fresh off the plane from four years abroad with her husband Matt, a vice president at Albemarle Corp., Juneau had accepted a position at the foundation as a part-time speech pathologist. Before she ever showed up for the job, though, the executive director resigned. Then the executive committee called her in for an interview. Next thing she knew, Juneau had her name on a placard and a floundering nonprofit with dying community support to call her own.
“I’m not afraid to get out of my comfort zone,” says Juneau. “Otherwise, I would have never said yes to this job.”
Hard work was a necessity from the beginning. Short-staffing issues forced Juneau to wear many hats. In addition to pitching in with speech therapy, she also coordinated the fundraisers and communicated to the community the true value of the foundation. Her methods worked. In 2007, BRSHF was serving eight children with autism. By 2012, that number had grown to 62. Over all disciplines, BRSHF offered therapy to 220 children last year alone. Adequate staffing is now in place, community awareness and support are significant, and the group just broke ground on a new 26,000-square-foot facility at the LSU Innovation Park.
The Emerge Center for Communication, Behavior and Development will be the new name for BRSHF as soon as it moves into the new building, slated for completion in January 2014. Juneau could not be more pleased, or focused. She’s got ongoing fundraising to manage, building decisions to make, marketing campaigns to oversee as well as children and families to nurture and support. It’s the families and their need for normalcy that keeps her going.
“I’m not content if I’m not making a difference,” says Juneau. “I see myself as someone who will not only lead, but do.”