GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - A Grand Rapids native who helped thousands of children as a social worker, a community activist and a volunteer advocate has passed away.
Leona Spencer died Saturday of natural causes; she was 86-years-old.
Spencer started her career as a social worker, but she was known for her passion as a community activist.
According to GVSU, Spencer graduated from the school, back when it was known as Grand Valley State College, in 1975 with honors. "She helped establish the Sarah Allen Family Neighborhood Center in 1985 through her church, by organizing volunteers of all ethnic groups and religious denominations to respond to educational needs, drug recovery, and physical needs of the area," the website wrote. In 1987, she received the Distinguished Alumni Award from the school.
According to a March 2013 article in the Grand Rapids Times, Spencer worked hard to recruit volunteers in the Grand Rapids community for over 30 years.
"Race, creed or color didn't matter; we just brought young people together and tried to have a positive effect on their lives. I come from a very poor background, and because people reached out to me when I was in need, it inspired me to reach out to others," Leona Spencer told the Grand Rapids Times.
"The adults need to get involved, not expecting to be paid for their work in the community," Spencer says in the same article.
Spencer was a part of numerous organizations and founded the Concerned Citizens Council of Grand Rapids in 1986. She remained President Emeritus of the organization.
According to GVSU, Leona was presented with over 60 local, state, national and international awards for her community work. She received recognition from various Michigan Governors and Michigan representatives. In 1982, she was named by the Detroit News as one of the "Michiganians of the Year".
She was the first president of the Grand Rapids Association for Nursery Education. She won the Alexis De Tocqueville Society National Award from the United Way and the Sojourner Truth Meritorious Award from the Grand Rapids chapter of the NANBPWC.
In 2006, Spencer was awarded "The Giant Among Giants" award at the Giants Awards in Grand Rapids. The Giants Awards recognize outstanding contributions made by people in the African-American community. Spencer was recognized for all her years of being an advocate for children.
Leona Spencer is survived by her husband Edward, her three children Edward Stanlee Spencer, Toni Spencer-Beatty, and Diana Lampton, and her numerous grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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