Leslie F. King is a survivor of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She was coerced into the lifestyle of prostitution at the tender age of 15 in Grand Rapids, MI. She became trapped in the underworld of prostitution and drug addiction for over 20 years. On July 4, 2000 Leslie miraculously found the strength and the courage to break free. Since 2003, she has been intensely engaged in working with individuals who find themselves trapped in the same horrors that she experienced.
In 2005, Leslie utilized her experience, expertise, and inspiring example of a renewed lifestyle to open Sacred Beginnings, a safe haven that offers hope, and healing to trafficking victims. Leslie consults with law enforcement agencies, human service professionals, clergy, and others requesting direction and understanding in working with prostituted individuals. She also speaks at various conferences and academic institutions on the issue of human trafficking.
Leslie is well-respected in the state of Michigan from which she hails and where she is often seen boldly conducting street outreach to sexually exploited people during unconventional hours.
Her awards and recognitions include:
2005 Grand Rapids, MI Woman of the Year nominee
2008 YWCA Advocate of the Year
2011 Rising Hero Award
2014 "50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan"
2018 Michigan Liberator Award
2019 Grand Rapids Negro Business and Professional Women's Club Certificate of Achievement
2021 African American Leadership Award
2021 BBB Trust Award
MEET THE BOARD
Daniel W. Spaans
Board Vice President, Treasurer
Dan retired from a 32-year career in leadership at Haworth Corporation.
He is a graduate of Ferris Statue University, a member of Thornapple Community Church, and has served with a number of local organizations including The First Tee of West Michigan, Hope Network, The Other Way Ministries, Kids Hope USA, Degage, and Kids Food Basket.
Nikki has been employed for over 9 years with the Reformed Church in America and has worked in the nonprofit sector for over 15 years. She is a member at City Hope Ministries and has actively served and helped with numerous church and nonprofit organizations.
James is a palliative care physician at Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids. He obtained his MD from Northwestern University and completed his Hospice and Palliative Care training at Mercy Health, Grand Rapids. He attends Redemption City Church and resides in Grand Rapids with his wife, Kat.
Kat is an MSW student at Western Michigan University. Kat worked as an illustrator and graphic designer for 10 years before transitioning to social work. In 2022, Kat completed an internship with Spectrum Health Hospice and is currently interning at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital.
Kat obtained her BFA in Illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She resides in Grand Rapids with her husband, James.
Mary has a background in marketing, sales, and management. She currently works for the NBC and ABC affiliates in Grand Rapids WOOD TV8 and WOTV. She managed a group of five radio stations with Regent Broadcasting prior to joining WOOD TV8.
Mary won top honors for two national promotions she developed and executed with the Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo. She was nominated for the 2019 YWCA Tribute Award and two Addy Awards. Her hobbies include golf, international travel, and just hanging with family. Mary attended Davenport University and resides in Grand Rapids.
Chris has been working in mental health since 2009 and currently serves as the Vice President of Clinical Services at Wedgwood Christian Services. Chris also owns and operates Speak;Easy Mental Wellness, a group psychotherapy private practice in Grand Rapids.
He obtained his MSW from Grand Valley State University and is originally from Puerto Rico. Chris is passionate about mental health advocacy and has been selected as a member of the Grand Rapids Business Journal 40 Under 40 Class of 2022.
Marilyn is a doctoral student at Western Michigan University's Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology Program. Her passion is advocacy and activism, particularly for the most marginalized, as well as research in race-based trauma and its impact on Black people.
Marilyn credits her awareness to the issue of human trafficking due to attending one of Leslie's trainings while she was working on her master's program. Over the years and through her research, Marilyn began to see the ties that link her research interest in race-based trauma systemic issues and human trafficking. It is her hope to, through her work with Sacred Beginnings, help victims of exploitation receive evidence-based mental health services and address existing systemic issues that enable the cycle of human trafficking to continue.
Susan is the President and CEO of Holy Cross Services, a statewide Michigan child welfare and homelessness nonprofit. She obtained her MSW from the University of Chicago and lives in Rockford with her partner and two children.
Susan has led youth and young-adult trafficking victim service programs for 10 years, including the development, launch, and expansion of Texas-wide anti sex-trafficking operations, national interventions for labor trafficked children, and interventions for youth trafficked into and out of orphanages overseas. Through this work, she came to understand that trafficking involves the abuse of relationship, power, and trust. As such, effective intervention must center relationship, shared power, and trust with survivors.
Patrick A. Nelson
Patrick is a native of Grand Rapids, MI and is a mental health therapist at Family Outreach Center as well as an independent contractor. Patrick is a graduate of Cornerstone University and Grand Rapids Theological Seminary. He graduated in May 2020 with Master of Counseling and Master of Ministry Leadership degrees. He is currently a doctoral student at Northcentral University's Psychology program with a specialization in Trauma and Addiction.
Patrick loves working with marginalized and socio-economically deprived populations such as citizens returning from incarceration. He currently works with middle school and high school youth who have been impacted by violence. Patrick specializes in TF-CBT, Mindfulness Therapy, and Motivational Interviewing.
MEET OUR STAFF
Sharmane is our fantastic Monarch House Resident Supervisor.
Sharmane is a survivor of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. She is a graduate of Sacred Beginnings' transitional housing program and is now the first paid peer of Sacred Beginnings. At the Monarch House, Sharmane ensures the safety and well-being of all our residents. She conducts resident intake and screenings, runs meetings, and manages the day-to-day operations of the Monarch House.
"What is most meaningful about my job is the fact that I am giving back to these women what Leslie so freely gave to me and also the fact that I am now an employee of the organization that changed my life forever."
Kiley is our fabulous Executive Assistant and works closely with Leslie at Home Base.
Kiley has over 20 years of client and customer service experience. Her professional portfolio includes work in HR, telecommunications, medical billing, nonprofit organizations, hospitality, event management, and mortgage. Kiley has overseen and created training and development programs for companies and nonprofit organizations that include Diversity Equity and Inclusion implementation, policy writing, work-life balance seminars, customer service training, and employee engagement workshops.
Kiley holds an Associates Degree in Psychology and is currently working on her bachelors degree with an emphasis on Integrative Studies. She lives in Grand Rapids with her two children.
Lizzy is our friendly Social Worker at Home Base.
Lizzy is honored to be serving survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation in the Grand Rapids community. Lizzy completed her Master of Social Work degree from Western Michigan University with a concentration in trauma studies in 2019. Lizzy's work experience and passions have focused on working with survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault. She specializes in Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) as well as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR).
Lizzy enjoys spending time outside, especially trips to Lake Michigan and the UP every summer. She calls Grand Rapids home although she grew up on the east side of the state.
Board Vice President
Katie is a Survivor and is passionate about working with victims of human trafficking. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor. She has been working with the Department of Veteran Affairs for 15 years.
Katie has years of experience in community education and is a Social Work Program Adjunct Professor at Grand Valley State University. Katie has her own private practice and provides therapy to survivors of trafficking, sexual exploitation, and abuse. Her specialty is working with teens and adults who have trauma and substance abuse concerns.
Katie serves as the Vice President of the Board at Sacred Beginnings. In her role, she is one of the grant writers and facilitates clinical operations.
Katie is involved in the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, City of Grand Rapids Human Trafficking Task Force, and serves on the Service Provider Sub-Committee with the Solutions to End Exploitation Kent County task force.