There are many words and phrases that would accurately describe Rhonda Wurgler - dedicated, visionary, driven, caring, survivor, nurturer, supportive, selfless - but the one that surfaces in everything she does is passionate.

Although the former 10-year Medina County Deputy Sheriff was more than highly qualified for the position, Wurgler reluctantly accepted the offer to become the director of the Children's Center of Medina County in 2011. She was hesitant because, emotionally, she felt it could be a painfully constant reminder of her own abusive childhood that she kept buried.

However, once she entered the building "just to help out" she knew she was where she belonged, where she was meant to be. As a staff of one with a few good volunteers, she began working with the innocent children who were experiencing trauma similar to what she had endured. She realized, thankfully, she had made the right decision.

Since 2011, the Center has grown to a staff of eight, and recently moved into a new facility on East Smith Road in Medina, where its services have been expanded to meet the growing needs of more children. Every 30 minutes a child is abused in Ohio; Medina is not immune to children experiencing abuse and neglect.

In 2017, 623 children received help from the Center; one year later that number had grown to 823 cases. Sadly, those are only the cases that are identified and reported, barely 10 percent of children who are victimized.

Wurgler is passionate about helping children. She and her staff have worked hard to make the Center a welcoming, secure place for the abused children who are brought in for services. She said these children do not need material things, they need nurturing, and to feel less threatened. They need understanding, to know someone believes them -- they need to feel wanted.

One of the ways the Center is accomplishing these results is by partnering with the many agencies that are Pathway members, all working together toward a common goal of getting to the root of the problem and then doing something to correct it. Their team efforts and combined years of experience are invaluable.

Education and awareness are significant factors in fighting this horrendous injustice towards children. To continue to be effective, it is necessary for the agency to continue to grow, which the Children's Center has done. It is now the umbrella servicing three distinct programs: as a child advocacy center, a family visitation center, and a place to create greater anti-human trafficking awareness and education.

Wurgler wants only to be a voice for these abused and neglected children. She has never aspired to achieve personal recognition, yet it finds her because of her passionate efforts to help these children. She has been the recipient of countless awards, among them Excellence in Leadership, Louise Brown Community Service Award, Agent of change, Hero of the Month, Paul Harris Fellow, and Professional Achievement Award Northeast Region, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation Development.

She has professional affiliations with Ohio Children's Trust Fund Northeast Ohio Regional Prevention Council, Greater Medina and Wadsworth Chambers of Commerce, Youth Advisory Consortium, Medina Coalition Against Human Trafficking (co-founder), Ohio Network Child Advocacy Centers, Domestic and Sexual Assault Coalition, and Family First Council (co-founder of the Trauma Informed Consortium).

Last year Wurgler suffered a life-and-death medical situation that awakened her to being more attentive to the message the Universe is sending her: to really listen to and focus on what is truly important. She knows she has much to live for, much to do yet, and is embracing this revelation by working passionately to fulfill its role in her life and her work with children.

This already busy wife and mother has returned to graduate school and is working on a third degree (she earned Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from the University of Akron), and is seriously considering running for the Cloverleaf School Board. She is passionate about helping children any way she can.

Wurgler firmly believes every child has a right to a happy childhood, one without abuse. She also believes a community has a responsibility to be a safe place for its young people, and will be the first to say the Medina community has overwhelmingly risen to the challenge to be that place.

Forty to 50 percent of the Center's budget comes from the community, the people Wurgler fondly refers to as an invaluable part of the 'village' that has come together to help raise, and meet the needs of, these children. She staunchly leads the fight to end child abuse and is grateful to this community, this place she calls home, that has generously supported the efforts of the Center to achieve this goal.