She initially planned to work “a couple of hours per week” during the school year. Instead, Marcia Langenderfer spent 28 years advocating and providing services for Toledo’s homeless at St. Paul’s Community Center, where she spent the last six years serving as the agency’s executive director.
Mrs. Langenderfer, a longtime Toledo resident, quietly retired from the agency on May 30. But the legacy she leaves behind speaks volumes about her leadership and heart, friends and co-workers say.
“She was a tireless advocate for the homeless and mentally ill,” said Joe Habbib, who takes over the reins at St. Paul’s. “It was a personal mission to her.”
Mr. Habbib, 52, credits his former boss with restarting the center’s “winter-crisis” program, which provides emergency shelter for homeless people. She also created a transitional housing program for people willing to commit to attend classes that prepare them for independent living.
She had an unwavering commitment to serve Toledo’s most mentally ill; people who are often shunned by other facilities, several of her former employees said.
“We put up with people that other people don’t want to put up with — the mentally ill — because other clients are safer and easier to put through the system,” Mrs. Langenderfer said. “It’s important to build up that trust because many of them have never had anybody in their corner.”
Mr. Habib is a licensed social worker and earned a business degree from the University of Toledo. He has spent many years working with people who have substance-abuse problems. He’s been at St. Paul’s for four years.
After graduating from college, Mrs. Langenderfer spent one year teaching elementary school in Monclova Township. She then spent two years serving as a project manager for Owens Corning, a job she quit after her two sons were born.
When Mrs. Langenderfer first showed up at St. Paul’s in 1986, her goal was to find something to do since her sons were in junior high and high school. Her long-time friend, Ruth Arden, happened to be the director of the community center.
Her first assignment was to plan an open house for the agency which had just moved its shelter operations to the former Flower Hospital on Collingwood Boulevard.
Within weeks she was making speeches, writing grants, and taking on other duties. In 1991, St. Paul’s shelter and administrative offices were moved under one roof to the agency’s current location, 230 13th St. In 2008 she was hired as the center’s executiive director.
“She handled her job with such grace, even though she had such a tough job,” said Lucas County Commissioner Tina Skeldon-Wozniak. “It was hard work to obtain resources, but she always had a great story to share with you. I think that’s why people admired her.”
Mrs. Langenderfer credits her staff for the community center’s success.
“I was blessed,” Mrs. Langenderfer said. “I had a wonderful, supportive staff that wanted to help people. It was my honor to do it. I wish we had the resources to do three times as much.”
Contact Federico Martinez at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.
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