Growing up, Monica and her nine brothers and sisters never felt deprived in their South City home.
Her parents loved their big family, and her dad, Dan Leroy, often took a second job to make extra money to provide a festive, abundant celebration for the children each holiday season. This happened year after year, until Monica turned 15. That year, right before Thanksgiving, Monica’s father was killed on his way to work by a drunk driver.
In that one night, their lives and future absolutely changed.
As the family’s sole breadwinner, Dan Leroy managed all of his family’s financials. Monica’s mom, Joanna, was a full-time caregiver for the children. She had not finished high school, and was wholly unprepared to deal with the financial and emotional effects of her husband’s death. “My mom spent her life raising children at home. When my father died, we were left facing questions with no easy answers. How do we pay the bills? Can we afford our home? What do we do now that our lives are turned upside down?” Monica said.
For Monica’s family, the answers to these questions came from Kingdom House, a United Way partner agency. Established in 1902, Kingdom House helps families and individuals find direction for their lives through a variety of services, including food assistance, childcare, job training and more. Once connected to Kingdom House, Joanna started receiving the help she needed to change the odds for her family. Kingdom House first addressed the basic needs of the family by providing them with food, helping them find affordable house and making sure that they were able to have a good Christmas without their father. Staff then helped her learn how to manage their finances and directed her to a GED class. By gaining valuable professional skills and passing her GED, Joanna was able to discover the possibilities during a time of tragedy.
“Kingdom House really changed me just by the way they treated my mother. Because they helped her to go back to school and pass her GED, it was never a doubt in my mind that I would finish high school and go on to college. It became my mantra once I saw what even a little bit of education could do for someone’s life,” Monica added.
The idea that an education opens doors was instilled in Joanna’s children—all graduated from high school and went on to receive undergraduate, technical or advanced degrees. After graduating from Saint Louis University, Monica later received a Masters of Divinity from St. Paul School of Theology and now is the senior pastor for St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Florissant. Reflecting on her growth from a bitter, upset teenager to a spiritual leader, Monica can’t help but credit Kingdom House for where she is today.
“Kingdom House does relationships very well. They helped my mother and our family to see that there was a future. When my father died, we were lost. Through Kingdom House, we realized that the opportunities for our lives were endless.”
About Kingdom House
In 1923, Kingdom House became a United Way partner agency and continued its mission of helping people to achieve better lives. Kingdom House has served individuals since 1902 and yearly transforms the lives of thousands of people in the St. Louis region.