Spotlight on Melanie Neumann
Longtime SAM member Melanie Neumann found her calling in the nonprofit world, shortly after moving to Los Angeles 18 years ago. “We live in a city where we have the capacity to do so much good,” she says, and that’s what she herself discovered, fresh off of a career as a media buyer for a large New York City advertising agency. Craving change, she began working as an event planner for the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.
Realizing that she could use her background in marketing to make a difference to those in need was life-changing for Melanie, and inspired by her work with MDA and Avon, Melanie started a nonprofit of her own in 2012. PRESENT NOW, which she co-founded with Erica Fisher, supports children living in domestic violence shelters throughout California. PRESENT NOW gives care packages of necessities and specialty items to babies, children and teens who are entering and living in transitional shelters. The contents of the care packages depend on need and season -- a “Presence of Mind” box delivered in August gives the children a backpack and school supplies, while a “Presence of Love” box delivered around Valentine’s day gives each child an age-appropriate electronic device for learning and fun. PRESENT NOW also works to make sure that these sheltered children receive a birthday box. Each child receives a “Presence of Being” gift on their birthday which includes a new toy, book, outfit, gift card for a birthday dinner and a cake mix, frosting, spatula and candles so the mother can make them a cake.
“Another reason we started this charity was for our own children to be able to see that we live in such a blessed area, and that not everyone is so fortunate,” says Melanie. From the very beginning, when PRESENT NOW was operating out of a garage, Melanie’s three children Lily, Bella, and Wesley have been part of sorting supplies and packing the gifts. “It’s important for our kids to be involved,” she says. “We focus a lot in our household on giving back.”
Melanie met founder Mindy Freedman through their children’s elementary school and became a SAM member in 2015. “I wanted to know what other amazing organizations exist in the LA area. With SAM, I’m giving and also introducing people to PRESENT NOW,” she says. “It’s a beautiful cycle.” Her involvement with SAM has helped her build lasting friendships with the women who make up the organization. “The SAM Initiative has been amazing,” adds Melanie. “The women are so engaged in listening; it’s very impactful to look around a room and see so many women who want the same thing, to help get smaller nonprofits off the ground. I really value all of the women who are part of SAM. What SAM has been able to achieve is truly fantastic, and I’m completely committed. I feel very fortunate to be a part of it.”