(Joplin, MO) — “We were saddened to hear of the death of Virginia Leffen,” said Freeman Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Paula Baker. “She, along with her husband, Bill, were champions for children and families living on the autism spectrum. Through their generosity, the Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism was constructed after the original Ozark Center for Autism facility was destroyed in the 2011 tornado. Virginia took great pleasure in visiting with the children and celebrating their victories and milestones. Virginia was truly a compassionate and loving woman who will be long remembered and deeply missed.”
In October of 2011, just five months after the Joplin tornado, Bill and Virginia Leffen, who had lost their own home in the tornado, asked where they could make a donation that would have the most impact. The tornado had also destroyed the Ozark Center for Autism building, and when the Leffens toured the temporary facility they knew they had found their cause.
When they toured the temporary facility, Virginia said, “We were taken aback with all the good that they were doing in a temporary building. They had classes set up for the kids, but they didn’t have enough room for all of them. Some of the children were coming from as far away as Springfield. It just made our hearts ache.”
The Leffens’ $3 million donation was instrumental in building the state-of-the-art facility that exists today. The donation allowed the center to have space for all autism services in a single location, including its diagnostic center, classrooms, mock rooms that replicate the home environment, kitchen and multipurpose gymnasium.
“Virginia Leffen was gracious, kind and a generous spirit,” said Vicky Mieseler, Ozark Center Chief Administrative Officer. “She gave freely with an unselfish concern about the welfare of others. Never once did I see Virginia that she didn’t ask about the children and staff at the Leffen Center. The Leffen family’s generous donation has allowed our community to have a state-of-the-art center for autism where miracles happen for families every day!”
Bill & Virginia Leffen Center for Autism has served 700 individuals since 2015, when the new facility was opened.
Virginia Leffen died on May 2, 2021 in her home at the age of 91.
About Freeman Health System
Locally owned, not-for-profit and nationally recognized, Freeman Health System includes Freeman Hospital West, Freeman Hospital East, Freeman Neosho Hospital and Ozark Center – the area’s largest provider of behavioral health services – as well as two urgent care clinics, dozens of physician clinics and a variety of specialty services. In 2020, Freeman earned dozens of individual awards for medical excellence and patient safety from CareChex®, a quality rating system that helps consumers evaluate healthcare providers. U.S. News & World Report named Freeman Health System the Best Hospital in Southwest Missouri for 2020-2021. With more than 320 physicians on staff representing more than 80 specialties, Freeman provides cancer care, heart care, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopaedics, children’s services and women’s services. Additionally, Freeman is the only Children’s Miracle Network Hospital in a 70-mile radius. For more information, visit freemanhealth.com.
Lisa Olliges, Marketing and Media Relations Coordinator
Freeman Health System