When Fondren opened their hearts and their wallets to a charitable walk-a-thon last spring, the event ignited a passion in a recent Memphis transplant. Meet Drew Mellon, the 28 year old who, by day, is a seller of shoes, shirts and skateboards, but by night, is saving children in Cambodia. The soft-spoken Swell-O-Phonic manager has taken on a new role – a global one – with his sister’s Hard Places Community, a three year old organization dedicated to rescuing children from trafficking. Mellon will serve as international fund raising chair, seeking support for the non-profit. It’s a job he got a taste of as local chair during last April’s Traffick Jam. “That was a nationwide event”, he reminds us, “that raised $60,000”. But the bigger story is this: Fondren contributed $10,000, 1/6 of the overall haul, with its walkathon and Jonezetta reunion show at Sneaky Beans. “This is a pro-active neighborhood”, Mellon says. “The universal response is when you are educated about it, you can’t turn away”.

For the last several months, Mellon has been preparing for a ten day trip to Cambodia, writing support letters and getting paperwork in order. “It’s exhausting”, he said, “but I’m looking forward to seeing first hand what it is that we are accomplishing there”. With money raised from Traffick Jam, Hard Places has built a boy’s aftercare facility called Punlok Thmey. Mellon explains it is Chmer for ‘the moment a seed is planted and starts to grow’. Aptly so because, he tells us, the goal of Hard Places is to teach the children a better way. “Some of them only know how to be slaves and we want to show them there’s more to their life”.

Mellon will conduct grant writing seminars while overseas but will also go into the trenches, so to speak, visiting the places where the trafficking is taking place. “It will be tough”, he tells us, “especially since it involves kids”. But he’s seen the fruits of rescue efforts already. “My sister adopted two little girls who I met for the first time last fall. They’re proof that what we do there works”. And proof that Mellon’s plans to be a professor wouldn’t do. “The thought of sitting back in another classroom and writing more papers just made me anxious”, he says. A graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary, Mellon says being hands on makes him feel most alive. Like the time he worked with Manna House in Memphis. “I learned more on the streets, I think, than I did in a classroom”.

With his sister creating a spot for him and an employer (Ron Chane) who is ‘flexible’, Mellon can pursue his passions, like helping to plan a golf tournament later this month to raise support monies for his sister. And for himself, Mellon says it’s hoping people will support him, be it a one time gift or for the long-term. “I’m glad that here in Fondren, people here don’t just wait around when they know someone needs help”.

Support Mellon and/or Hard Places Community by emailing drewmellon@gmail.com.