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Friends & Neighbors - United Way can change lives

Though she is a native of the lakes area, Nancy Soberg says becoming part of the United Way of Becker County five years ago was an eye opening experience.

"The United Way is very interesting... it opens your eyes to things that, day to day, you probably don't know exist -- people who are in crisis," she explains.

The most eye-opening aspect of what she has learned over the past five years has been that hunger is not just a problem in the less privileged areas of the world -- it exists right here, in Becker County.

"I never really thought there were that many hungry kids in our community," she says.

The Becker County Food Pantry is just one of the United Way's member agencies that has experienced increased usage over the past several years -- "and it's (hunger) a need that's growing," Soberg says.

A partner in Benson, Leitheiser and Soberg, Certified Public Accountants, Soberg was elected on June 1 as the 2007-08 president of the United Way Board of Directors.

"I am extremely honored to be chosen to serve as president of the Board of the United Way of Becker County," said Soberg. "This board is like no other; my eyes have been opened to see that I take for granted many of the simple things in life each day.

"We are very fortunate here in Becker County to have so many gracious and caring individuals and businesses that support the organization in financial ways as well as providing a number of individuals willing to serve as volunteers on the United Way of Becker County Board and many of our member agencies."

Since joining the organization in 2003, Soberg has served on the United Way Board of Directors and chaired the Community Celebration as well as the organization's annual payroll drive.

"Together with the United Way's member agencies, we are able to impact the lives of those who are less fortunate and those who are dealing with crisis in their daily lives," she says. "We are truly blessed that we have a core group of partner agencies within our communities that are dedicated to making life better for all of us. As president, I am committed to carry on the tradition of caring and to continue to make a positive impact on the lives of those in need."

A native of Audubon, Soberg currently makes her home in Rochert with husband Ron, who is employed by Jon & Sons Disposal Service. When she's not working, Nancy serves not only as president of the United Way board, but as treasurer of the Noon Rotary Club. She is also a past president of the Detroit Lakes Jaycees, and served with that organization for 12 years.

Her hobbies include fishing and enjoying a variety of sports, "either watching or participating."

But it is the United Way that holds a special place in her life. "It's easy to put your heart into the United Way," Soberg says, "because you can see progress in looking at what our agencies do.

"I think it's important to volunteer, because we can all make a difference in somebody's life -- somebody who has been less fortunate."

"Becker County's economy continues to change, and this requires us to constantly evaluate how we raise funds, how we distribute donations, and how needs are changing," says LuAnn Porter, executive director of the United Way of Becker County, in a news release. "I look forward to look forward to working with Nancy serving as president as this process continues.

"She is an enthusiastic leader who is dedicated to investing leadership, time and talent to address community needs that will have a positive impact on the quality of life for the citizens of Becker County."

"We're very fortunate to have LuAnn," Soberg says, returning the compliment. "She makes it easy to serve on this board, by keeping us well informed and working so well with our member agencies.

"We're lucky," she adds. "Over the past few years we have been one of the few area United Ways that has met their (fund raising) goals."

In its 2006-07 campaign, the Becker County United Way raised $220,000, which will be allocated to its 32 member agencies according to need, Soberg notes. "When you look at all these agencies and the work they do -- they're the ones who really carry out the mission of the United Way," she says.

The members of the United Way of Becker County began meeting this month to start the planning process for the organization's 2007-08 fund raising drive.

"We'll be kicking off our (fund raising) campaigns in the fall," Soberg says. "Our community celebration -- which used to be our residential drive -- will be held at the end of September."

The switch from the door-to-door residential drive to a one-day community celebration, showcasing the United Way's member agencies, has been "well received" by the public since it was instituted two years ago, Soberg says.

Besides Soberg, the other 2007-08 board officers are president elect -- Sue Braun, St. Mary's Regional Health Center; secretary -- Sally Askelson, Herzog Roofing; and treasurer -- LeAnn Erickson, Bremer Bank.

Named as new board members, who will serve three year terms, are: Michelle Harris, Detroit Lakes Public Schools; Laurie Olson, St. Mary's Regional Health Center; Tracy Peterson, State Bank and Trust; and Reed Oistad, youth representative.

"Michelle, Laurie, Tracy and Reed will be excellent additions to our board," said Porter. "Their concern for our community and enthusiasm about serving on the board and taking on new challenges will help keep our board energized and focused on achieving our goals and taking the United Way of Becker County to an even higher level of success."

For more information on the United Way of Becker County contact the local United Way office at 218-846-7400.

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.

(218) 844-1454