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Lakeview Center 2023 Team Member of the Year

Hear from Lakeview Center 2023 Team Member of the Year Melissa Caraway on what she loves about her job and the population she serves

Melissa Caraway is proud to be the Lakeview Center 2023 Team Member of the Year.

“This population has a special place in my heart. They are so innocent and pure. People often look down on them and mistreat them. Just because their IQs are low doesn’t mean they can’t learn. It just takes them longer.”

What this 2023 Team Member of the Year does to make a difference

In college, Melissa learned how to be a teacher, but she discovered her passion was working with intellectually disabled individuals in her community. Melissa came to work at Lakeview Center because she could follow her passion, and other employees spoke highly of the organization.

Melissa helps clients learn how to take care of themselves and handle life mistakes. The program she oversees offers supported independent living, staff accompanied living, and residential habilitation, a foster family type environment. The program, called Special Populations Network, also includes a court program. The court component helps guide intellectually disabled persons through the legal system when they’ve gotten into legal trouble. Unfortunately, some people take advantage of persons with disabilities for personal gain.

Melissa encounters people who have no one to turn to, including family. One young man had cancer with only a few weeks to live with only Melissa by his side. She went out of her way to get his favorite Filipino food, which was his last meal. Another woman, who was no longer in the program, found her way back to Melissa. She saw Melissa as a mother figure and knew she could trust her to help when her family was taking advantage of her.

melissa caraway lci 2023 team member of the year
Melissa Caraway, component director of Special Populations Network and 2023 Team Member of the Year

Another former client who was homeless also reached out to Melissa.  She had stopped dialysis which she needed. When she contacted Melissa, she had been off too long and couldn’t start back. She went into a nursing home knowing she was going to die. Melissa visited her weekly. The client requested Melissa bring her favorite food, chicken soft tacos from Taco Bell.  This client passed away shortly before Melissa’s next visit. It’s not uncommon to lose clients included in this population. Melissa often visits their grave sites to change out the flower vases. She sits and talks with them to let them know someone cares.

“My dad taught me that if you see someone who needs help, you help them.”  

Her official role of supervisor could easily be a hands-off position. However, she likes being in touch with the clients. She loves watching them achieve something they’ve never done before. “It’s all worth it when I see a smile on their faces saying, ‘I did it!’”

She loves working at Lakeview Center because it aligns with her upbringing. “When your organization believes in helping people, you don’t have to look for it. I see opportunities every day.”

Outside work she enjoys spending time with her partner, son and two dogs. She also likes to watch football, do yardwork, and play pickleball. She shops for thoughtful trinkets to give coworkers on special occasions, even picking up items for their dogs or cats. “My coworkers are like family. We’ve all been here for a long time.”  

When Lakeview’s president called Melissa to tell her she was selected to be Lakeview Center 2023 Team Member of the Year, Melissa said thank you very much, but it didn’t sink in until the next day. “I was shocked. The co-worker who nominated me gave me a copy of the nomination, and I started crying. I’m proud to be the first Team Member of the Year for Lakeview Center.”

Melissa loves her job. The people she helps are so appreciative, and she likes being available to help them. “You have to help people in life.”