A passion — and compassion — for animals was a shared bond that brought Melissa Ann Barton and singer Emmylou Harris together, and nearly 15 years later, their friendship is still going strong. The pair recently forged a new partnership. With the launch of Melissa Ann’s Mod Squad Martha, a line of bottled sauces, she is helping support Emmylou’s two efforts that are at the heart of their friendship — Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat dog rescue. Read on to learn more about this special friendship and the fruits of their labor. Welcome today’s FACES of the South, Emmylou and Melissa Ann — or “Emmy” and “Melissa,” as they refer to one another.
Melissa Ann, tell us how you and Emmylou met and how you two came to collaborate.
Emmy and I met in 2003. I had catered events that she attended, but our first real conversation took place after I watched the respect and care Emmy showed for her beautiful mother at a party. I helped her mother with a special plate. We really began our friendship at a Metro [Nashville] animal event, where we connected over our love of helping homeless dogs. I then started cooking for Emmy, and my son Graham and I began volunteering with Bonaparte’s Retreat.
Same question for you, Emmylou.
I knew Melissa Ann from her successful catering business, but our friendship really began at an adoption event hosted by Nashville Humane shortly after I started my own dog rescue, Bonaparte’s Retreat, in 2004. She and her son Graham have adopted two dogs from Bonaparte’s, and Melissa has donated her considerable culinary talents to our fundraising efforts over the years.
Melissa Ann, describe the path that led to the launch of Mod Squad Martha.
I started Mod Squad Martha as a catering business in 2001. I loved hosting dinner parties and making people happy through good food and a great music mix. I worked in the film business, which is where the lightbulb went off while doing craft service. I saw how you could make people happy with food prepared with passion and extra effort, a cool set up, fresh wildflowers and, most of all, serving it with kindness.
What’s been the most rewarding part of launching your line of products?
I love helping people celebrate and elevate the everyday with good food and seeing them smile because of it. The most rewarding part though is having a larger purpose and giving back.
Do you have any new products coming out?
Yes. We are working on organic dog treats, which is so fitting! We are also working on cookies and other bottled sauces that help simplify entertaining and everyday meals.
Describe the connection between Mod Squad Martha and Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat.
With each Mod Squad Martha purchase, you will be helping a young adult in need and a shelter pet. Just as importantly, I want to raise awareness about the human-animal bond, which Crossroads and Bonaparte’s embody. I have been so blessed by parents who made a difference and encouraged me to do anything that I dreamed of. There are so many kids out there who never experienced that support. I truly believe in the Bible verse, “From those who have been given much, much will be required.” And that means much more than money. My ultimate dream is to work with these kids and other individuals who have been abandoned by employing them.
Emmylou, describe the work that is done at Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat. How involved are you in the day-to-day operations?
Crossroads is a social enterprise helping at-risk youth alongside homeless dogs and cats. The young people get job training in retail, pet grooming and animal rescue at the Crossroads Pets Shop and Adopt store, and a safe place to live, overseen by caring adults. Bonaparte’s Retreat is strictly a dog rescue, located at my home in Nashville. The animals are pulled mainly from Metro Animal Control (as are Crossroads). In the beginning I was very active in the day to day at Bonaparte’s when I was home — feeding, giving medications, walking and, of course, scooping. But as our staff and volunteers have grown in number, I basically just visit and name the dogs as they come to us. My main function is fundraising, which I do for both organizations.
Emmylou, how has the collaboration with Mod Squad Martha impacted the work done by Crossroads Campus and Bonaparte’s Retreat?
Melissa’s generosity in giving part of the proceeds from her fantastic products is so welcome to us; animal rescue will never be a for-profit venture, but the rewards are priceless.
Melissa Ann, on the Mod Squad Martha website, you say that Emmylou motivates you to “be just a little bit better.” Describe how she motivates you and what qualities she has that inspire you.
Emmy has been a source of inspiration to both myself and Graham. Graham has described her as a great role model. She is selfless and follows what she believes in her heart to be right and good. She is a champion to those in need and sees the best in everyone.
What is your goal for this collaboration?
Melissa Ann: As mentioned earlier, I want to ultimately raise awareness and provide not only jobs but encouragement to the kids and show how invaluable the human-animal bond is.
Emmylou: Besides raising funds, Melissa and her products will raise awareness about animals and people in need, especially the unique work going on at Crossroads, where those animals are changing the lives of the young adults who care for them.
When you’re not working, how do you spend your free time?
Melissa Ann: Taking in every moment I can with my teenager and my precious Daddy, who is 90, and being on the water with my husband.
Emmylou: Baking goodies for the hard workers at Bonaparte’s.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Melissa Ann: My momma always told me to be kind, be yourself, like yourself enough to like others because being those things makes it easy to follow your dreams!
Emmylou: Follow your bliss.
What’s one thing even your closest friends would be surprised to know about you?
Melissa Ann: I would love to be a songwriter.
Emmylou: I’ve never watched “Game of Thrones.”
Aside from faith, family and friends, what are three things you can’t live without?
Melissa Ann: Dogs, good music and coffee
Emmylou: A good book, a cup of tea and baseball
Meet more amazing Southern women in our FACES archives. Click HERE!