I first met Melinda while volunteering at our children’s school. We immediately clicked. I have always been in awe of her ability to throw herself wholeheartedly into her career, her family, and her work in the community. She’s not only a fantastic mother, but an astute business woman and a staunch advocate for children and parents. I am so excited to have Melinda as the chair of our board. I have no doubt that under her helm we’ll be better, stronger, and can make great strides toward our goal of ending child abuse in San Francisco. Meet Melinda.
Q: Tell me about your life.
A: I grew up in the East Bay in a very loving and supportive family. I was incredibly fortunate because my parents were both engaged at home and in the community. My father ran a real estate company and my mother started one of the area’s first health spas for women all the while she was managing a busy household of me and my two younger brothers — this was a pioneering concept in the mid-70’s!
I studied economics at Cal and then barreled into the real estate finance world after college. My father’s firm had since expanded nationally and I ultimately joined a division there to help build a real estate investment management business. Sadly, my mother was very ill during my early 20’s and passed away when I was 24. This was truly a seminal moment in my life and something that forever changed me and my ability to empathize with the pain that so many families experience.
After graduation from Stanford Business School, I co-founded Ellis Partners, a commercial real estate investment and development firm, with my father and one of my brothers. It was truly a unique opportunity to start a business together and something that our family is very proud of today, now 24 years later!
Q: What are you most passionate about?
A: At work, I love building and working in teams and seeing how our diverse perspectives and collective drive for excellence can lead to innovative solutions for our projects. I love architecture and design and seeing how our work can transform the communities we serve. I’m also very committed to supporting young women in our industry and spend a lot of time mentoring students at Cal and Stanford. The most centering force and highest priority in my life, however, is my family. My husband and three daughters are my safe harbor as well as, where I continually learn the most about myself.
Q: Why did you first get involved with the Prevention Center?
A: As I was driving to work after having my first child, I started thinking about how I had a good job, a babysitter at home, a supportive family, and thought “Wow, this is so hard. How do women without even one of these things do it?” I immediately called a friend who was involved with the Homeless Prenatal Program and joined their board shortly thereafter. Since those early years, I’ve spent the bulk of my volunteer time doing what I can to help families and kids.
I met the Prevention Center’s Executive Director Katie Albright through our board work at our children’s school. Because of my real estate experience, Katie came to me to see if I could help the Prevention Center team in their efforts to conceive and build a new Children’s Advocacy Center of San Francisco. As I spent time with the amazing people of the Prevention Center and learned more about the work, I quickly raised my hand to also be considered for the board.
Q: You’re the new Board Chair, how do you see your role?
A: The Prevention Center is an incredibly well run organization. There is a strong infrastructure in place that allows the board to efficiently attend to our fiduciary duties and spend the bulk of our time on supporting the strategic initiatives of the organization. We have an amazing group of community leaders on our board who care deeply about the organization. I see my role as an organizing function to ensure that each board member — all with incredible talents — bring the right mix of their skills to our meetings and committee work. We know that when everyone is pulling on the right oar, we can accomplish great things together.
Q: With three daughters, what’s the greatest joy and biggest challenge?
A: Without question, my biggest parenting challenges have come about when the kids were between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. It was hard all three times! I think it was challenging for me because I was so tired and therefore so easily frustrated, and always felt guilty about everything. It didn’t help that 2-year-olds can’t communicate very effectively. I have a lot of compassion for any parent with a child of that age. Knowing what I know now makes me understand the power of parent education. Mothers need to feel they’re not alone — that we all struggle.
My happiest parenting moments are when I see my daughters overcome and persevere through the various challenges they encounter during their teens and now early 20’s. I feel very blessed that they still come to me for an empathetic ear or advice.
Q: What’s your pro parenting tip?
A: It is so difficult, but trying not to take it all so personally! As we all know, it is common for adolescents to go through difficult years when they are moody and hard to understand. Society almost encourages this behavior by succumbing to it. “Oh, she is just a moody teen!” My mother used an approach with me that I’ve taken on as my own. Instead of playing into that narrative, I say to my daughters, “I know something’s bothering you, I know it’s not me; let’s talk about it.” Most of the time, the truth emerges and real communication and progress can be made. Don’t get me wrong, it is still really hard!
Q: What’s your favorite thing about San Francisco / Bay Area?
A: Despite the fact that I’ve lived here all of my life, the Bay Area ethos constantly inspires me to believe that anything is possible. The people and organizations that thrive here know how to rapidly identify problems and work collaboratively and creatively to solve them. I see this in my work at Ellis Partners and in our work at the Prevention Center. We should all be very proud that our communities are willing to take on big, audacious goals and work tirelessly to meet them.