Leshia Nagel could have given up. She never knew her father and grew up in an abusive home. After her biological mother had her parental rights terminated, Leshia was placed in Four Oaks’ residential program. Sporadic foster care, more residential treatment and a failed adoption created a shy teenager who learned to survive but could not trust.
Enter a compassionate Four Oaks recreation therapist who saw Leshia’s potential. Gina Moenk and her husband took Leshia on outings and into their home, practicing normal family life and building the trust and respect that Leshia never knew. Love grew and Leshia became part of the Moenk family. She started life over, learning that people love her and learning to give back to the kids who share her rough experiences.
As a teen, Leshia volunteered countless hours mentoring children disconnected from their families, helping them face fears that kept them from trusting others. She completed high school and graduated college with a teaching degree. “I want to be like you someday and help people with their problems, just like people helped me,” she told her mom, Gina.
Fast forward to Leshia as a valued member of the Four Oaks staff dedicated to direct service to children. She continues to seek out the most difficult and challenging cases, including kids with severe mental health concerns. She has been described as a wonderful listener who lives her passion for helping others.
The combination of her life journey and a heart that grew from past pain has made her a valuable and well-respected professional for the work she does beyond the obstacles she came from. Because of the remarkable path that Leshia has taken, several co-workers and families nominated her for the Tom Lewis Award. Given by the Coalition for Family and Children’s Services in Iowa, the Tom Lewis Award was established to acknowledge a staff member who has shown outstanding service, dedication, longevity and diversity in duties to children and families. The 2010 recipient of the Tom Lewis Award is Leshia Marie Nagel.
Leshia’s nomination for the award noted, “Her energy and ambition is driven by dedication. Her commitment and passion for our work with children and families is unparallel.” Leshia has, indeed, not given up, but given back.