Co-owner of a local gastropub, BREWED and founder of a non-profit that supports refugee children, women affected by the sex industry, and the homeless.
Every nook of Melissa Ice’s restored, antiquated home tells a story about her. She beamed with joy as she pointed to life’s pieces like her biological grandfathers beer stein he collected while in Germany during WWII. A man she never met, his legacy floats on a shelf amongst antique telephones and scuba helmets. Or the 100-year-old family bible passed down from the grandmother who raised her. It was preserved in a case frozen in time – a celebration of her faith and history placed quaintly on the shelf.
The tour continues and the stories not only echo from the neatly displayed collectibles but also from the walls and floors themselves. The house, located in the Historic Fairmount neighborhood, was built in 1910, and is a stately brick manor that the Ice’s are slowly resurrecting from a neglected past. The home was vacant for 5 years. A year and half ago, it reeked of garbage and human feces. There were large patches of disrepair and dilapidation. This home needed some CPR and the Ice’s were just the team to breathe new life into this forgotten building. In fact, this is the 3rd home the Ice’s have renovated and lived in. And it’s clear by the new façade that they are gifted at revitalization. The home still dons original molding, floors, and some light fixtures.
Melissa’s style, both décor and fashion, is inspired by the “little finds.” She strives for a feel that’s “classy but left of center.” Her soft, confident persona does reflect a subtle edge – probably influenced by her world travel, her extensive acting background, oh and maybe partly from being the wife of a lead guitarist in a popular rock band, Green River Ordinance. To ease the scene she puts a vinyl of Al Green on while Amanda takes photos around the home. “Let’s stay together,” hums in the background as Oliver, their white Westie, follows Melissa with a stuffed dinosaur (or something like that) flopping from his muzzle.
This highly accomplished non-profit founder and popular restaurant owner is surprisingly soft, yet guarded. She’s very warm and welcoming, yet subtle. But still there’s an undeniable determination. She’s pioneering change, and her life’s work is creating waves, waves strong enough to move a city.
This 31-year-old native Texan was raised by loving grandparents, who were young enough to be her parents. A well-meaning absent mother and invisible father challenged her confidence. So she poured herself into the drama world and acting became a separate stage where she could boldly be someone else and act out another world. At this chapter of her life, her goal was an Oscar. Whatever it took. She was ready to take on L.A. and be the next “Nicole Kidman.” In this self-enthralled rocky teenage angst, she made a bold move.
The summer before college she became a dedicated Christ follower and decided to spend 10 weeks on mission in Ghana, hoping to find herself “Eat, Pray, Love-style.” This was a pivotal point for her. She came back to Texas with “fresh eyes” and a passion for people different than herself. She replaced the Oscar dream with a new heart to “explore and understand other people.” The catalyst to go and do was the first ripple. Her past life was being defined by hardship, but now she longed to be different and to make a difference.
Since then, she’s spent time living in Nepal, visited Morocco, and made multiple trips to China. She hosted monthly international parties and invited anyone and everyone from other countries. It became an insatiable challenge – to learn and know those who are different that surrounded her.
One of the notable themes in Melissa’s story is that she seeks open doors and actually walks through them; then she shakes hand with whatever and whoever is on the other side. She doesn’t shut the door and run the other way. If she’s nervous about a new chapter, she doesn’t close the book or skip ahead. She reads, rereads, and cross-references every detail so she can know her challenges inside and out.
It’s this commitment to commit that birthed The Net. She started learning that her heart to serve those different than herself didn’t have to take place in other countries but could take place here, in her own city. This adventurous traveller was nervous to permanently plant roots in a small big city slightly behind the times and popular trends, so she initially pursued Austin. But the door to Fort Worth opened, and she was encouraged to co-found not only a non-profit but also a new restaurant, Brewed.
Her passion to influence culture and serve others is evident in the eclectic pub, coffee bar, restaurant that specializes in craft beer, craft coffee, and craft cuisine. Its local focus was the last puzzle piece in the key to planting her roots here in Fort Worth.
Less than a year after the launch of Brewed, The Net was born – a non-profit that “brings solace to the city” by providing community and supporting those most in need. It’s the driving force behind Melissa’s passion to “[introduce] people to people who are not like them and [to show] them that they’re worth falling in love with.”
Nowadays, non-profits seem rampant and it’s rational to question what a donor’s funds or time are really contributing to. With this in mind, Melissa wanted to know what the city really needed. And then, meet that need. So she met with almost every non-profit and church in Fort Worth that served marginalized groups. She asked what was still needed and how she could add value. And most importantly, she was open to the answers.
What she learned is that those on the fringe, need community.
“I felt like people just really needed friendship and people… That’s what they need is friends, people checking in on them, knowing them, just feeling known…”
The Net befriends 3 people groups: the homeless, refugee children, and women affected by the sex industry. The non-profit now has 2 full-time and 2 part-time employees managing the stories, events, and resources for these different groups. And this team plus the many volunteers help “catch and connect” those who have found themselves in a low place by providing community and relationships so that they may “walk in freedom and joy as whole individuals.” “God has wired everybody to want to feel known,” and Melissa does an incredible job at excavating the layered and complex stories of the people she serves.
Melissa is a collector of stories. She curates them for others to see and experience. And she displays the less appealing in the spotlight and they reflect beauty. She takes broken lives, disrepaired homes, trinkets of the past and breathes passion and new hope in them. And she inspires and motivates others to join her. Let the life and legacy of this young motivated City:SHAPER encourage you to walk through your own life’s open doors boldly and shake hands with the opportunity to serve and to share stories for the good of your city.
If you haven’t met Melissa, come next Wednesday October 29th from 6-9pm at Encore Live and share in the next chapter of the Ice’s story. They’re adopting a baby. In the next year and a half, Melissa will be the mother to an interracial baby with an open adoption, hoping to help build a healing relationship with the biological family. Another story beautifully curated and woven into the Ice’s generous life.
Or, get involved with The Net – donate, or better yet, meet the people and learn for yourself the stories of the known and the loved.
By Miranda Holland