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Mohs is president of Becker Co. United Way

Detroit Lakes’ Bonnie Mohs began her work as the 2013-14 president of the United Way of Becker County on June 1. Her duties include supervising the 2013 United Way Fund Drive, which has a goal of $228,000. VICKI GERDES/TRIBUNE

When the United Way of Becker County started working with local high school students to organize the first annual Day of Caring, Bonnie Mohs was an integral part of it.

Since retiring from her position as a family and consumer sciences (FACS) teacher at Detroit Lakes High School in 2008, Mohs has continued to be involved with the United Way in a variety of capacities — most recently, as its president.

Mohs became president of the local chapter on June 1. But her memories of being involved with the charitable organization stretch back as far as her childhood years.

“My mother was involved with the United Fund (which later became the United Way) in Pelican Rapids,” Mohs said.

“I remember her going door-to-door in her neighborhood, which is how they did the neighborhood (fundraising) campaign at that time. It would take her a month to get it done, because everybody would invite her in for coffee.”

That was a different time, Mohs said. These days, the door-to-door fundraising is all but a thing of the past.

In Detroit Lakes, for instance, the neighborhood campaigns have been replaced by the United Way Community Celebration, which this year takes place on Thursday, Sept. 19 at the Detroit Lakes City Park & Pavilion, from 4 to 7 p.m.

The one-day event is now a chance for the entire community to come out and celebrate all things United Way, as the 33 nonprofit organizations and agencies that benefit from the charitable fund are showcased, along with the programs that the nonprofit sponsors, such as the Day of Caring, Food For Thought Backpack program and more.

And of course, all donations made to the United Way on that day go toward the 2013 campaign, which officially got underway Aug. 22 with the kickoff for the employee payroll drive, which runs Sept. 1-Nov. 1. The business drive begins Oct. 2.

“Our goal this year is to raise $228,000,” Mohs said. “The theme is, ‘The Power to Change Lives.’”

Mohs believes the United Way really does have the power to do just that.

“When you give to the United Way, you know that the money is really going to help the people of Becker County,” she said, noting that the United Way’s board reviews each application from the various nonprofit agencies and organizations very carefully.

United Way grants must be renewed annually, she added, so each of the 33 member organizations’ applications are reviewed once every one or two years to make sure the money is being spent wisely.

In addition, the local chapter receives free office space and clerical assistance from Rural Minnesota CEP.

“We don’t pay for our phone, copier, or other office expenses,” Mohs said. “Even at our board meetings, we pay for our own meals.”

This enables the organization to keep its overhead costs at a bare minimum, because “we want the money to go to the people who need help,” she added.

Bonnie and her husband of 38 years, Al Mohs, have been involved in a variety of community organizations and events through the years, particularly at their church, Trinity Lutheran, where Mohs serves on the health ministries committee and acts as funeral coordinator.

“I’ve always believed in giving back and doing volunteer work,” Mohs said.

Since retiring from her 35-year teaching career — 33 of them spent at Detroit Lakes High School — Mohs has become the housing manager at Ecumen-Detroit Lakes’ Union Central Senior Living, a 30-unit apartment complex for seniors which opened in 2010.

She and Al, who is now retired, also like to spend as much time as possible with their three children, Christopher, Tyler and Jenna.

Chris lives in Manhattan and works as a senior creative strategist with Blue Fountain Media; Tyler lives in Crystal, Minn., and works as a mortgage underwriter for Wells Fargo; and Jenna lives in Plainsboro, N.J., where she works as a ticketing operations manager for the New York Red Bulls soccer team.

“And she’s (Jenna) getting married in October,” said Mohs, adding that Jenna’s fiancée is a strength and conditioning coach for Princeton University.

During her 33 years with Detroit Lakes Public Schools, Mohs said, “I’ve either taught or had children taking classes in every school building in Detroit Lakes, except at Washington School.”

So it’s only appropriate, she added, that the old Washington School building was renovated and expanded to form the new Union Central complex.

“It’s really fun,” Mohs said of her work at Union Central. “I get to work with people, and I still get to do some teaching — just not every day.”

Mohs does “Coffee with Bonnie” twice a week at Lamplighter Manor (also part of Ecumen-Detroit Lakes), in which she educates local seniors on health, wellness and consumer topics.

“I also coordinate different social activities here at Union Central,” she said.

Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

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