Meet the Staff of ASSIST
Mellani Calvin: Executive Director of ASSIST
Much of Mellani’s career has been assisting people with disabilities. Mellani has assisted people through the Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSD/SSI) application process since 2001. She worked as a Social Security disability paralegal for 3 1/2 years preparing cases for hearings. She began working at Central City Concern in Portland, Oregon in 2004 as a non-attorney representative with a focus on chronically homeless and the indigent and moved on in 2008 to develop and manage Central City’s highly successful Benefits and Entitlements Specialists Team (B.E.S.T.) of Portland. In 2005, she became one of Oregon’s original four trainers for the national SSI-SSD Outreach, Access and Recovery (SOAR) curriculum sponsored by SAMHSA, which also helps social workers and case managers learn to navigate the Social Security Disability process.
As of April, 2010 Mellani founded two new disability related companies: Disability Benefits Training & Consulting, and ASSIST (Assertive SSI Service Team). Her work as the principal trainer and program director has now taken her to many cities throughout the northwest to promote programs for the disabled homeless. She has presented on the national stage at such conferences as National Coalition for Homeless Veterans in Washington, DC and the National Community Action Partnership conference in San Francisco and is a member of NADR, the National Association of Disability Representatives.
Kyle Carter: Case Management Supervisor
Kyle Carter joined the ASSIST team in March of 2014 and currently serves as the organization’s Case Management Supervisor. In his role, Kyle is responsible for management of the disability application case load at ASSIST. He is a highly skilled and deeply compassionate member of ASSIST. He acts as a client advocate and liaison for ASSIST customers when dealing with the Social Security Administration and other disability related agencies.
Kyle conducts comprehensive interviews with current and potential clients to ensure that a complete list of disabling conditions are fully described in the disability application. Kyle’s previous experience as a writer lends itself well to thoroughly conveying all that the Social Security Administration needs to know about each individual’s case. Kyle offers supportive guidance throughout the complex disability application process. He is passionate about the need for safety net services like ASSIST, and has been an active volunteer/advocate for literacy and community groups for many years. Kyle holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM.
Bianca Pick: Benefits Specialist
Having recently moved to Portland, Bianca first joined the ASSIST team as a volunteer. Most of her prior work has been in her home country of South Africa where she worked as a counselor, fundraiser and volunteer for several non-profits and community clinics. She has also worked at schools geared towards helping children with cognitive disorders (Autism Spectrum and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum) learn both academic and vocational skills. In 2012, she completed a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the Midrand Graduate Institute in Cape Town, South Africa, and has since focused her attention on working with programs that aim to serve and empower people suffering from disabilities, disenfranchisement and impoverished members of society.