10 Most Beautiful Women 2018 presented by Bharat Shah

Melanie Stinnett, 35

Lives in: Springfield, MO
Owner/Speech-Language Pathologist at TheraCare Outpatient Services
Charity: Include Ozarks

The woman who receives the most online votes and brings the biggest crowd to Indulge will donate a portion of the event proceeds to her local charity of choice. The winner will be announced at Indulge on October 3.

What is your local 417-land charity of choice, and why is it important to you? 

Include Ozarks: I founded Include Ozarks in 2016 to meet specific needs for families of children with special needs in the Ozarks. We started off by offering the area’s first Sensory Safe Trick or Treat and had over 500 individuals in attendance. The event was so well received that we made it an annual event and have added a Sensory Safe Easter Egg Hunt, as well. In addition to these events, we offer monthly parent workshops on topics of high interest for these families and we are building Ozarks Ability Map, an online resource guide for families of children with special needs.

Do you volunteer, or are you involved in any philanthropic or community organizations? If so, what are they, and what do you do?

I hold the following board positions: 

  • Children’s Smile Center: The services offered by Children’s Smile Center are invaluable as they provide a dental home to children in the communities where they serve. 
  • Advisory boards for both Missouri State University and Cox College Master of Occupational Therapy programs: I view my service on these boards as an important way to give back professionally within my own community while helping to grow new graduates who will be working in the therapy professions. 
  • Include Ozarks; President: I have a passion for serving others and a leaning toward those that have disabilities. I choose to guide families of children with special needs toward education and resources that will give them hope.

What do you think makes a woman beautiful?

There are so many things that make a woman beautiful but the most important one to me is a kind heart in someone that thinks about the needs of others while also considering her own. 

What has been your proudest moment? Or, what are you most proud of?

When I started my business five years ago, I could not have dreamed where my life would be today. Running my business, helping to employ therapists and staff who care deeply about their community, serving nearly 300 clients and helping to start a nonprofit that increases the knowledge of families who we serve daily. My proudest moment has been simply stepping out in faith, even though there was no model for a clinic like our own.

What was one particularly defining or life-changing moment in your life?

In college, I changed my major several times and thought I had landed on a desire to be an English teacher. Around that time, my younger sister entered kindergarten. She had some challenges with her speech and she was very shy. She began speech therapy in school and within six months she was like a different child. It was a life-changing moment for her, as much as it was for me. Her experience placed me on the path to becoming a Speech-Language Pathologist.

Bharat Shah MD FACS

When you were a child, who did you think was the most beautiful woman? Why?

My mom has always been beautiful to me. She has taught me so many things by just being her. She is a rock star entrepreneur who built her business from the ground up and a person who would help someone in need without a second thought. Her combination of grit and grace is something I have looked up to all my life.

What advice would you give to a young girl about being beautiful?

Beauty is grown from the heart. Take time to tend your heart.

What’s something that might surprise us about you, or a story you love to tell?

I love to read and I try to read at least a book a week. In 2013, I self-published a contemporary romance novel.

What is your biggest source of inspiration?

Jesus. When I am faced with something that seems impossible or scary, I try to remember to lean not on myself but on Him for wisdom and inspiration.

Where do you find beauty in 417-land?

Living close to the South Creek Greenway trail gives me the opportunity to really appreciate the beauty of Springfield. My family and I also travel often to areas creeks and lakes. 

What do you think is the biggest issue or challenge 417-land is facing right now, and how would you tackle it? 

Medicaid reimbursements for therapy services in Missouri are one of the lowest in the nation. Because of this, providers are limited and waitlists are long. Adequate, early intervention services for children, especially in rural communities, can be very difficult to obtain. I feel that there are viable solutions that should be explored so that children in our state have every opportunity for success. As a professional, I advocate by talking to local legislators, traveling to Jefferson City to testify in hearings and serving on committees for state and national organizations that put a focus on improving access to therapy services. We have to start having more collaborative conversations about how to increase early interventions so that the need for services and care later can decrease.

Fill in the blank: Friends would describe you as “The _____ One.” 

The Loyal One

See the winners in the September issue!

Get to know our 10 Most Beautiful even better. Then, watch them walk the runway at 417 Magazine's Indulge on October 3 at Oasis Hotel and Convention Center.