Retiree Is Thankful for ‘Good People Doing Good Things’

By Office of Communications
Employee News
May 13, 2024

Come late June, Melanie Dunn-Chadwick is planning to not plan anything. 

After 42 years working for Fairfax County Public Schools, she’s ready to exist in the “liminal space” — the space between where you’ve been and where you’re going. 

“I’m looking forward to more open spaces in my day … the freedom to pursue what’s of interest in the moment.,” she said. 

Melanie never expected to have a 42-year-long career. “Some days it feels like it’s just been a few years, and then other days it feels like it’s been a really long time,” she said. 

When she was just out of college, newly married, and new to the area; Melanie started volunteering with the Victim Assistance Network. Through this position, she learned of a temporary job opening with the county government in social services. Then through that job, she learned of an opening with the Head Start program at FCPS. 

“My primary focus was on supporting families,” said Melanie, whose role with FCPS is now called a Family Services Specialist with the PreK/Early Head Start program. Most of her years with FCPS have been spent working part-time, which she says has been “critical” in terms of her desire to work for as long as she has. As a mother, it made it easier to juggle raising her kids and her work. “It helped balance the sometimes hard parts of working with situations where children are being injured and domestic violence is impacting the family,” she said.  

The most rewarding part of her job, Melanie said, has been supporting a child or their parents through a really hard time and seeing them come out on the other side saying, “Thank you, your help made a difference.” She has also been touched by parents who would approach her after parent meetings letting her know how grateful they were that she was openly talking about child sexual abuse — because it happened to them and no one ever talked about it. 

Melanie has continued to hear from three women in particular who she helped leave abusive relationships. She was able to connect them with the resources they needed and “just be there to listen.” Now they’re living independently and, “They’ve been very kind in verbalizing how supportive my efforts with them were,” she said.

Her other favorite part of her job has been “working with such dedicated, compassionate colleagues,” she said. “When you work in this kind of program, I think it attracts others who have a real heart for helping and it makes collaboration very rewarding.

Helping children and families is a family legacy for Melanie. Her father was a minister and her mother was a guidance counselor. “I grew up in a family who believed in the idea that we’ve been blessed to be a blessing to others,” she said. “I love this job. And I just feel so grateful that I was able to take my passion for creating safety for children and families and work with incredibly caring, wonderful people to help children and families thrive.” 

While she admits that nothing is perfect, Melanie said, “I have been so proud to work in Fairfax County Public Schools.”