Spotlight Melissa Fisher

Melissa Fisher

Melissa Fisher is Executive Director of the Collins Center, a non-profit organization in Harrisonburg, Virginia dedicated to providing trauma-informed treatment and crisis intervention to survivors of sexual violence. She is also a passionate advocate for local refugees resettling in Harrisonburg, and for the Welcoming movement—the nationwide initiative of Welcoming America which seeks to make communities more inclusive for newcomers from around the world.

Melissa moved to Harrisonburg with her husband Thabo in 2012 after nine years in New York City where she worked on public green-space projects including the High Line, a mile and a half long elevated public park created on an abandoned railroad track on the city’s Lower West Side. With a deep interest in the connection between people and plants, and with a professional degree in horticulture from the New York Botanical Garden, Melissa found her place in the project as Director of Horticulture and Park Operations before later moving into the role of Chief Operating Officer for Friends of the High Line, the group responsible for the planning, funding, and operation of the park. In 2012 just before her relocation to the Shenandoah Valley, she was named to Crain’s New York Business’s 40-Under-40 List for her contributions to the High Line project.

Regardless of the context, from anti-violence work to green space initiatives like the High Line; from Welcoming work to interpreting for doctor’s appointments, women’s groups, and parent teacher conferences for Congolese refugees (she is fluent in Swahili after her time in the Peace Corps in Tanzania in the early 2000’s), Melissa is wholeheartedly committed to creating safe, healthy, accessible environments in which people from all parts of the world can feel honored, respected, and fully alive.

Melissa has two sons, Emerson (4) and Moses (2). In her free time she enjoys goofing aro
und with her boys, keeping up with a weedy garden, and riding her motorcycle. She is returning to school later this year to pursue a Masters degree in global social work and refugee trauma.

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