Noelle Mangus has spent her entire career making a positive impact on young people. And the proof of her hard work can be seen in the healthy smiles she has helped create all over the Virginia Peninsula.
Since 1998, Mangus, the Smart Smiles coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula, has poured her heart and soul into what she does. And still, she radiates when she talks about the children she has affected and the impact they have had on her. She has worked tirelessly to combat oral health problems, and in turn, has helped boost health and self-esteem in countless youth.
Mangus, 43, started volunteering at a small unit of the Boys & Girls Club in 1998 to fulfill a volunteer requirement for one of her classes at Christopher Newport University (CNU), where she was pursuing a degree in social work. When she graduated from CNU with a social work degree, then-director Steve Kast asked her to work on an education program for the Club.
“He said, ‘I’d love to create a position here for you to coordinate the after-school program,’” she says. “I was not sure there was enough social work in it.”
But Mangus accepted Kast’s offer and fell in love with the work and the club’s mission. As it turned out, there was plenty of opportunity to use her social work education to assist youth who were trying to conquer obstacles that life was throwing their way. She has helped numerous children through the challenges of broken homes and violence.
“Some of these children lost their innocence way too young,” she says. “It broke my heart. I felt like I needed to do something about this.”
Mangus quickly realized she found her calling. “I have always loved working with people,” says Mangus. “It’s been my thing. I have always had this heart for people.”
In 2004, Mangus was tapped to head a new program at the Boys & Girls Club called Smart Smiles, which was Delta Dental’s way of giving back and helping to ensure underserved children had access to proper dental care. And since then, Mangus has been the Smart Smiles coordinator, tasked with completing paperwork for children needing dental work, making sure they get to dental appointments and receive the necessary care. About 250 Peninsula children ages 6 to 18 are served annually by Smart Smiles. The program also makes certain the youth have toothbrushes and the proper education about oral health and hygiene.
The work, Mangus says, is critically important to children’s overall health.
“We are now looking at research that shows how important oral health is to them,” she says. “We know oral health affects so much.”
Mangus has forged partnerships with dental providers who offer their services. She serves as the go-between, speaking with dentists and parents and handling all case management.
Instilling good oral habits is critical to start as young as possible, she says. And the Boys & Girls Club works to do that in all of its locations. “Whole health is what it comes down to,” she says.
Smart Smiles is a nonprofit entity that receives funding from grants and is heavily dependent on funds raised at its annual Smart Smiles 5K race. Delta Dental provided the seed money and Smart Smiles is now self-sufficient. “We have been very blessed in this area to have such great support and providers,” Mangus says.
Dr. Mayer Levy, a retired dentist who initiated the idea of the 5K race, says the reason Smart Smiles has done so well on the Peninsula is fully attributable to Mangus. “She is just a wonderful, wonderful woman who cares about kids. She is a caring individual and she has worked very hard to make it work,” he says. “She has made a world of difference in the lives of children who are underserved. She has been instrumental in helping these kids. I am so proud of her.”
Mangus, who is married to a firefighter/EMT and homeschools two teenagers in their Suffolk home, is always brainstorming new ways to reach young people with the message of health and good habits. She practices what she preaches, as she is currently working on becoming certified as a health coach. An avid exerciser, she focuses a lot of her physical energy on weightlifting.
“I know that relationships with people and helping others is important,” she says.
There is no doubt, she says, that she is where she needs to be to exact positive change. She firmly believes her many years at the Boys & Girls Club doing different projects brought her the experience and insight needed to successfully do what she is doing now.
“I don’t think I would have been as good if I hadn’t started when I started,” she says. “It’s kind of wild how every
door that opened led to a place I needed to be.”
TO THE POINT:
Boys & Girls Club of the Virginia Peninsula
Address: 11825 Rock Landing Dr., Newport News, VA 23606
Contact: Noelle Mangus, Smart Smiles coordinator
Phone: 757-223-7204, ext. 106