In February 2018, Lael Melville ’82 and Randy Melville ’81 formed the Melville Family Foundation in southern Dallas, Texas. The organization addresses issues of food insecurity, economic instability, and educational inequity.
These issues are not new for Lael and Randy. On Randy’s side, he grew up in Trenton, New Jersey, and went to Princeton Day School, not far from the Princeton University campus. The experience made him aware of the drastic economic disparities in his community as a teen.
“I would liken it to living on Earth but going to school on Mars,” says Randy.
Lael remembers that the first time she took a plane was on her trip from her hometown — East Chicago, Indiana — to attend the University.
“I didn’t know how to get from the airport to the school. I had never truly been anywhere like that,” Lael says.
The two often volunteered their time and money for their community, such as in organizing Thanksgiving food drives. However, it wasn’t until Randy was retiring from a decades-long career as a business executive in PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay when he started having thoughts about starting an organization.
“I began thinking a lot harder about what my next chapter was going to be, and I knew I wanted to do something in the area of education,” says Randy. “So my wife and I began talking and that ultimately led to us forming our foundation.”
Lael, who has been a professional psychologist, ordained minister, and associate professor, recalls the first days of the foundation as a learning process. The two had selected local schools in the Uplift charter school system to help, and thought to speak with community members about potential programs to start.
“Maybe we were going to go get some computers,” Lael thought. “What we found out is that up to 80 percent of our scholars and their families over our entire school network are Title-I eligible, so they basically live and function in poverty.”
So the organization’s mission changed to encompass financial stability and food security, to address in tandem with the education gap.
Since then, the Melville Family Foundation has begun mentoring and literacy programs, run clothing and food drives, and partnered with businesses to build early interest in various careers among their students. Lael and Randy have also become more involved with their community.
“I now sit on the board of the public school system,” says Lael. “I was able to have a significant part in crafting a letter that is part of the community response to how we plan to respond to the inequity of black folks in our schools and our school systems.”
“We recognize our ambition in this mission is very big and broad. We can’t do it on our own,” says Randy.
The foundation has partnered with several organizations around North Texas, such as Big Thought, which upskills youth in marginalized communities, and Randy’s former employer, PepsiCo.
Their programs currently serve five schools, and the two are planning for the future.
“I am actively engaged in planning what our next three years, five years, even 50 years, looks like for the organization,” Lael says. “We want it to live in perpetuity because the needs don’t stop when Randy and I do.”