In a family with a lot to be proud of, Melissa Mundy is holding up her end of things.
Just 26 years old, she’s already done more volunteer work, master-minded more charity events and raised more support for worthy causes than most of us will in a lifetime.
Melissa comes from a family with a strong tradition of military service. Her brother Michael “Zack” Mundy, like her father, is a Marine, and returned in the summer of 2012 from Afghanistan. Her brother Nathan is also a Marine, and will leave for boot camp on August 3, the day after his 18th birthday.
Melissa’s tight-knit Shelter Island family is so large that when they have a family party, 100 people show up. She grew up in a home with four younger siblings, her parents and her dad’s mother. “Definitely my mom rules the roost,” Melissa said. ”A fair and benevolent ruler … I hope one day I get to be the matriarch of a group like this.”
Born in Jacksonville North Carolina, while her father was stationed at Camp Lejuene, Melissa was raised on Shelter Island and went to the Shelter Island School for all 13 years, an education that gave her the chance to try any and everything.
“I’m Jack of all trades, master of none, so it was great for me. I got to be in the band … be in the chorus, be in the plays, play a sport all seasons, yearbook, I interned at the Reporter. I did not have to choose one thing, I could do anything I wanted to do.”
One of the things Melissa wanted to do, along with the rest of her family, was help others. As youngsters, Melissa and her siblings stuffed envelopes to help her father with the “Cool Cash Raffle” at the annual Chicken Barbeque. Melissa’s mother, Rebecca, is philanthropy manager at Mashomack Preserve, where she organizes Mashomack’s primary fundraiser, the dinner-dance that takes place this year on July 27.
Growing up, Melissa pitched in for the dinner-dance, as well as the 10K, the Gift of Life, and countless other fundraising events.
Melissa saw how stepping up to help is not just going to parties and writing checks, but is part of the soul of Shelter Island. “Any time certain families have been going through a hard time, people silently just step in and make things better without making a big production of it,” she said.
Graduating from the Shelter Island School in 2006 along with eight kids she’d been in school with since kindergarten, Melissa credits those relationships with teaching her how to interact with people “on the other side of the ferry.”
“I try to be a friend to people, and not just a colleague,” she said.
During her four years at Emerson College in Boston, Melissa continued to pursue her passion for service, with a two-year internship with the American Diabetes Association, and organizing a fundraiser with her sorority four years in a row to benefit the Susan G. Komen Foundation.
After graduating from Emerson in 2010, Melissa came back to Shelter Island for the summer, planning to waitress until she decided what to do next. But in June, the death of her childhood friend, 1st Lt. Joseph Theinert, while serving in Afghanistan, gave her renewed focus.
“When Joe passed I was definitely in a little bit of a funk,” Melissa said. “My Mom said, ‘Come down to Mashomack and we’ll get you out of the house, we’ll get you in front of a computer. I became hyper-involved in her silent auction at the annual dinner-dance. And now I come back every summer for the event, I even take vacation days for it.”
Soon, the work Melissa loved to do became her career. In 2010, she started as an associate at the DS Consulting Group in New York City, a fundraising and event planning firm. By 2012, she moved back to the Island to take on a lead role in organizing the second Farm-to-Table benefit at Sylvester Manor. While working at the Manor, she was invited back to DS as an account executive in 2013. Her clients include Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York City, the New York Jets Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.
With her employer’s blessing and support, her “passion project” continues to be her work with the Joseph J. Theinert Memorial Fund. “The community, when Joe died, was amazing and continues to be,” Melissa said.
Her work with the Theinert Fund includes a partnership she made with The Telling Project, an organization that tells the stories of veterans by developing monologue-style scripted performances, allowing veterans to talk to their communities in a way that dignifies their service. The Telling Project is a highly respected national non-profit that has performed for Michelle Obama and will present three performances; November 14, 15 and 16 on the North and South forks and Shelter Island.
These days Melissa shares an apartment in New York City with Shelter Island friend, Brittany Olinkiewicz, and a house on Shelter Island with friends Jimbo Theinert and Mary Larsen.
There have been many changes on Shelter Island since Melissa was a child, but they don’t faze her. “I don’t really get caught up in saying, ‘Oh, Sunset Beach, Oh, so many people.’ The things that are important to me are the things that are the same. I can imagine what some peoples’ answer to that question might be, but it’s not my answer. The things that are important are still here.”