Today, we sit down with Melissa Trevathan, a woman who has devoted her life to providing counsel to children, adults and families. After founding Daystar Counseling Ministries nearly 30 years ago, Melissa continues to serve as Daystar’s executive director and as a beacon of hope and inspiration to everyone she encounters. With an infectious energy and fantastic smile, she greets us warmly and speaks candidly about her responsibilities at Daystar, her favorite ways to unwind and her beloved dog, Blueberry Pancake.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Murray, KY, a college town close to Kentucky Lake. I love my hometown, and I return there as often as I can, especially since I have a lake house close to Murray. I also have family and good friends who live there.
What brought you to Nashville?
God and a guy. The relationship with the guy didn’t work out, but my relationship with God is still ongoing. I specifically came to Nashville in the summer of 1972 to be a youth director at Immanuel Baptist Church. It was a summer job, as I was working on my master’s degree in seminary in Fort Worth, TX. In the fall, I continued to fly back and forth from Fort Worth to Nashville to be the youth director, and then moved full-time in January, after I graduated from seminary.
How did you come to be involved with Daystar?
I started Daystar in 1985, but my work with kids began when I was 16 years old. At that time, my own church in Murray was without a youth director. I, with all of the boldness and naivete of a 16-year-old, went to our head pastor and told him we needed someone, and until we found the right person, I’d be happy to step in. I’ve been working with kids ever since. Between that time and 1985, I served as the youth director at four churches, a retreat leader and the head of spiritual life at Brentwood Academy. By the mid ’80s, I was increasingly convinced that kids needed a safe place to talk. Counseling, as we think of it now, was just beginning. And so I, with the help of a board of directors, a friend named Nita Andrews and two groups of high school kids, started Daystar Counseling Ministries. Since that time, we’ve grown into a staff of 20 and are currently serving over 1,200 families in Middle Tennessee and beyond in what one child called “a little yellow house that helps people.”
Can you tell us about your responsibilities?
I continue to serve as the executive director at Daystar. My day job is that I oversee our mission, offering hope to hurting kids and families. I meet with many of our children and families the first time they come to our offices. I work with our entire staff to continue to create a safe place, that also happens to be a nonprofit, and work with our development team to hold our two main fundraisers each year: The Bike Thing and An Evening in December. I love teaching Bible studies at Daystar, as well, and continue to be the liaison between our very gracious board and our talented staff. During the summers, my lake house, which I named Hopetown, transforms into where we host our summer sessions—weeklong programs for kids who are involved in Daystar to learn and discover more of who God has created them to be. I teach the Bible there, as well as get to enjoy the children and driving boats, too, from time to time! On the side, I have had the honor of co-authoring six books, with Sissy Goff and David Thomas, including Raising Girls and Intentional Parenting. We have a blog called raisingboysandgirls.com and speak across the country to parents, all in the hope of taking the help—and hope—folks find at Daystar outside of the walls of our little yellow house.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
I love to see kids begin to believe they make a difference. It is our belief at Daystar that, no matter what’s happened in a child’s life—or any of our lives—we can still give. That giving is a part of the opportunities we offer kids. We have children who have been involved in counseling who give back by helping lead our younger kids’ groups and our summer programs at Daystar. Our tagline at Daystar is “One life touching another,” and it is a gift every time to see a child who experiences the difference that they can make in the life of someone else.
What’s your favorite way to relax and unwind?
Breakfast. It all begins with breakfast. In an ideal world, I’d like to start each day sitting around the table with coffee, conversation with friends, family and a good breakfast. If the weather is nice, I’d then like to take a ride in my ’79 MG enjoying the sights of our lovely city. On a rainy day, you can find me curled up under a quilt, reading—and maybe drinking more coffee.
If you could travel anywhere in the world right now, where would you go?
Mostly, I like a sense of adventure—and a sense of rest. So anywhere that combines the two, whether it’s in our country or abroad. Oh, and it must be somewhere that serves good coffee.
What would be included in your travel essentials?
I love to travel when I can take my Old English Sheeppuppy, Blueberry Pancake. Each winter I go to St. George Island, FL, which is a dog-friendly beach area. Essentials, then, would include Blueberry, a few treats for her and a few good books for me.
Name a few favorite restaurants.
Tell us something people might be surprised to know about you.
I recently rode my bike 400 miles on the Natchez Trace. We were raising money to fulfill a longtime dream, to have a house for Daystar to office in. Two friends, Mimi Heldman and Sissy Goff, and I continued our annual fundraising ride (which is 20 or 40 miles) and kept going all the way to Natchez, MS. Over the course of that trip, we raised $85,000 for Daystar. Our office—and my bottom—have never been the same.
Do you have any hobbies?
I still ride a bike. I also love to snow ski, walk and go antiquing in Hazel, KY.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Being 66, I’ve had all kinds of advice for many years, the first coming from my grandmother, who simply pointed her finger and said, “Behave yourself.” Otherwise, it’s been from my mother, who speaks truth more from how she lives than what she says. She’s the kind of person who, at 89 years old, still has full moon dinner parties on her patio and chills champagne in the snow. She lives life out loud, in relationships and with a great deal of humor.
Name three things you can’t live without, excluding God, family and friends.
I love Christmas and Easter and the warmth and the hope contained in both. I guess maybe I’d have to say clothes. Recently, those clothes seem to all spill out of a fashion truck owned by my friends, Kathleen and Aaron of K.McCarthy Fashion Truck. And laughter. Laughter with family, with friends old and new, and at the hands (or paws) of my puppy, Blueberry.
Thank you, Melissa, for spending time with us today and for the hope you provide our community!
And a special thanks to Ashley Hylbert for the fun photos of Melissa and her team!