"I felt God calling me to do more than be a farm wife.”
Wanda Mangus’ leadership is guided by one of her favorite Bible verses, James 2:17: faith that doesn’t show itself by good works is no faith at all. She describes her leadership as a ministry of presence defined by “being with someone and listening, really listening.” With her husband, Galen, Wanda has dedicated her life to enacting this leadership of presence in a myriad of ways.
Wanda describes her leadership as beginning in her home when after having seven children, she and Galen decided to adopt two hard-to-place children who would have ended up as orphans. In the public arena, since the early 1970s, Wanda’s leadership has been seen when she and Galen invited children of all ages to their farm to enjoy enrichment and educational activities that many of them would not have otherwise had the opportunity to enjoy. She and Galen welcomed an average of 2000+ kids every summer from nursery schools, day care centers, Head Start classes, and elementary classrooms to enjoy the Mangus Farm.
Wanda’s leadership has not been limited to her home but, rather, has crossed and challenged racial boundaries during times of deep segregation both locally and nationally. She was a member of Project HOPE (Helping Others Promote Equality) and continues to engage in anti-racist activism.
Perhaps the most visible example of her leadership can be seen through her work with ex-offenders, what Wanda refers to as her “most challenging and important work.” As part of the United Religious Communities she coordinated volunteers to visit inmates at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City with the goal of “being a friend to those who needed visiting and being a support when needed.” One aspect of this friendship and support involved coordinating a holiday cookie party at the prison. She organized volunteers to bake, collect, and individually bag 1000 dozen cookies to bring to the inmates.
Through this work, her role continued to grow to the point where she became Chairperson of the Ex-Offender Task Force. In this position, she saw a need for a halfway house to help inmates transition back into productive society, leading to the creation of Dismas House, which she founded and where she served as first president.
In addition to her prison work, Wanda worked for 13 years for the Mishawaka Housing Authority as manager of the Battell and 500 East Lincolnway apartments. After retiring she became a regular volunteer at the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center, where she was recognized as a Super Volunteer. Wanda observes that “God doesn’t require that we be successful, but he does ask that we be faithful.”
Information compiled from oral history collected by the Michiana Women Leaders Project and supplemented with documents from Wanda Mangus
Wanda was a 2017 CMWL honoree.