Leslie F. King is a survivor of human trafficking/sexual exploitation. She was coerced and forced 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 get free. For the past 18 years she has been intense and intentional about working with women and teenage girls who find themselves trapped in the same horrors and loss of purpose.
In 2005, Leslie utilized her experience, expertise, and inspiring example of a renewed lifestyle to open Sacred Beginnings, which is a safe haven that offers hope, and healing to prostituted women. Leslie consults with law enforcement agencies, human service professionals, clergy, and others requesting direction and understanding in working with prostituted women, teenagers, and children. she also speaks at various conferences and academic institutions on the issue of human trafficking.
Leslie was awarded the Michigan 2018 Liberation award, the 2011 Rising Hero award, and was 2008 YWCA advocate of the year. She was nominated for woman of the year in Grand Rapids, MI in 2005 and chosen as one of the "50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan" in 2014.
Leslie is well respected in the inner city of Grand Rapids from where she is often seen “boldly going where many people are afraid to go.” She might be seen during unconventional hours doing outreach to prostituted women and teenagers who experience her same pain both past and present.
MEET THE BOARD
Daniel W. Spaans
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 serves on the Missions Team at Redemption City Church along with his wife, Kat.
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. She is the Field Supervisor for Sacred Beginnings' intern from the Social Work department at Calvin University.
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.
Kat is an MSW student at Western Michigan University. After working as an illustrator and graphic designer for 10 years, Kat decided to pursue social work full-time. She obtained her BFA in Illustration from ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, CA. She serves on the Missions Team at Redemption City Church along 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.
Professor Richards has been teaching political science for 20 years. Her areas of instruction include Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties & Rights, State & Local Politics, and American Politics. She has completed several trainings in Michigan on trafficking, which she has implemented into classroom instruction for 13 years.
Professor Richards has an associate degree in Paralegal Studies and double-majored at Western Michigan University for her bachelor's in Criminal Justice and Public Law. She has a master's degree in American Politics with a focus on Judicial Politics. She also enjoys time with her family and two German shepherds.