Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is pleased to share that Leah Gagnon, Director of CHC/SEK at Wesley House, was selected as an honoree of the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce Women of Distinction. The Women of Distinction Community Calendar honors twelve area women who lead by example in donating their time and talents to benefit the Pittsburg area.
When Leah came to CHC/SEK in 2020, she helped start the OneCare Kansas program before taking on her current role. Leah said she wanted to be part of an organization that was well connected and understood the needs of the community, and within that organization, had the agency for community growth.
“There’s no place like Community Health Center, and I feel incredibly fortunate to represent the organization,” Leah says, adding, “represent all the leadership in the organization who are visionaries and extend kindness and grace in every situation even when it’s hard, even when feathers are ruffled.”
The best part of Leah’s job is “purpose.”
“It’s a gift to be so connected with a sense of purpose in the work we’re doing,” she says, “and it’s working. It’s meaningful.”
Just a few years ago, many in the area may not have known what a Community Health Worker (CHW) was and its role in health centers and other agencies. Roles of CHWs are unstructured, allowing them to fill in the gaps where needs arise, and often based on individual needs from food insecurity, transportation, and connecting people to resources. Leah led CHWs at Wesley House and found the tools to help clients and patients. These include partnerships and service agencies that can provide additional resources.
“I have so many stories,” Leah says about the important role of CHWs. “I’ve often learned something from patients and staff about the realities of living, working, and raising a family in southeast Kansas and the power of being connected to the right services with the right care at the right time. That’s what we’re here for, to see healing.”
Leah credited the health center’s leadership, noting, “This organization is a profound representation of women empowering women. We have a lot of women in leadership positions.”
“I know I’ve worked hard; I recognize that and I think we all work hard in the organization and invest a lot because it’s easy to,” Leah says, “It’s because of people like Krista Postai (CEO) and Dr. Linda Bean (Chief Clinical Officer), Lori Rexwinkle (Chief Operations Officer), Dawn McNay (Director of Development), Becky Gray (Executive Director of BHI) on and on and on — every facet that allows this organization to really thrive. It’s a privilege to represent everyone here. I would not have had the opportunities to grow and serve vulnerable populations, representing the impact without all of these moving pieces and of the good people in these positions.”
Leah shared her appreciation for those who helped this past year with outreach at Wesley House, including those involved with service delivery, integrated services, and CHWs. She also credited Director of Patient Engagement Colette Lee, and her husband, Caleb, and their sons, Jasper and Leslie, for their support.
What drives her?
“Community matters,” Leah says. “That’s the best thing we get to do as human beings. I really believe in that, and I have a core belief there are no prerequisites for human dignity, and that is what drives me. At the end of my life, I want to be tired. Not because I just ran the race but because my brain, my heart, and my energy were used well. At the end of the day, that is really full circle for me.”
Calendars will be available free of charge, beginning Friday, Dec. 1, at the Pittsburg Area Chamber office, 117 W. 4th Street in Pittsburg. The chamber will honor the 2024 Women of Distinction, along with the Kaye Lynne Webb Award winner, at the Women in Business breakfast event on Dec. 1, in the Pittsburg State University Overman Student Center.