Melissa Bohacek is seen by many as a superhero in the world of disability services, but for her, it’s just another day at work.
Bohacek currently works as the marketing and development officer for Paladin, Inc. in Michigan City. She spends much of the workday spreading the word about disability programs for people who may benefit throughout the Region. Paladin provides services all over Northwest Indiana, and it’s Bohacek’s responsibility to make sure those services are advertised to the people who need them most.
“We have support programs for people with disabilities, we have our early education programs, we have transportation services, and there's a lot happening and all of these areas. My job is really just trying to get that word out to everybody that we are here and that we are a place where everybody can feel welcome. I do that through social media, press releases, the website, or word of mouth. Any time we can tell someone about the great work that we are doing, that's always something that I want to be around for,” said Bohacek.
After graduating from college, Bohacek got a job working with over 20 individuals with various disabilities around the clock. Though she sometimes felt as if she was in over her head, Bohacek feels the job completely changed the trajectory of her career.
“When I graduated college, my very first job was with Goodwill Columbus, where I was a lead specialist for a resident home of 23 individuals with developmental disabilities. It was such an eye-opener for me,” said Bohacek. “I always knew that I wanted to support and help people, but I didn’t know what that would look like. I was sort of led through this amazing journey where I was able to work with this group of folks and see how they lived, and it always stayed with me.”
Bohacek has since worked in a few other communications capacities, including NWI Community Action, an organization primarily for aging and low-income individuals, in Lake County before transitioning into her role at Paladin. She now works as an integral part of the Paladin marketing department.
Bohacek’s heart for service doesn’t stop when she comes home from work. However, in her free time, she proudly serves on multiple boards for disability programs in the area including the La Porte County Special Olympics, Michigan City Chamber Music Board, and the Swanson Center.
“I sit on a couple of boards that I'm really proud of. I'm just really happy being in a connecting role wherever I am, in my life, or whatever board I'm sitting on. Sometimes people are having big emotions or they're going through something or they're hitting some kind of barrier. It really brings me a lot of joy to connect them with something that they need,” said Bohacek.
Bohacek feels the collaboration between the members of the La Porte County Special Olympics board has allowed the organization to provide fantastic opportunities and experiences for its participants. Sitting on the board gives her a great deal of satisfaction.
“I think Special Olympics makes the world better – at least a little piece of it,” said Bohacek.
Working in such large capacities in so many different areas can become draining, and some days are much harder than others. When times get tough, Bohacek turns to her faith, her twin sister, family, and friends to bring her energy, peace, and whatever else she may need to get through the rest of the day.
“I've been incredibly lucky to have a great family support system. I have my faith, and I think that when you can tell people what's going on with you, you get that help back. For me, having the support around me is really what gets me through,” said Bohacek.
Bohacek is still avidly working on new ways to make the world a better place for those with disabilities. She is currently facilitating a statewide support group in collaboration with the Alzheimer’s Association for people with dementia or an intellectual disability.
“I'm so excited about that. I hope that we can provide help to people who might be struggling or looking for extra support and that we can communicate to them that ‘it might be rough, but it's temporary. It's just a moment in time and here are some things that other people are doing that have helped and here's a network of people who care and who can help others through that,’” said Bohacek.
Whether it’s serving on a board or spreading the word about Paladin’s multiple services, Bohacek lives to serve. Her passion for helping those around her is evident in every aspect of her life.
”It's not about what I can do for someone else, but about what can happen when everyone works together. When it doesn't matter where the credit goes, great things can happen,” said Bohacek.
For more information on Paladin Inc. visit their website here: https://paladin.care/