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United Way leader

Brenda Houts likes to keep busy, and she has just added one more duty to her line of many -- president of the United Way of Becker County board.

When Houts, of Detroit Lakes, started working for SJE Rhombus in 1986, the company had just started offering the payroll deduction option to raise funds for United Way. It was her first encounter with the organization -- but certainly not her last.

"As a single parent with three children, I could not afford to give," she explained. "If someone said, 'hey, write a check out for $25 today,' I could not do that. But because they allowed the payroll deduction, I could have some taken out."

Not only could she afford it that way, Houts, who is a buyer at SJE, said she liked that her money was going to multiple organizations in need, and not just one.

The plan was such a success for Houts, she started helping with the payroll drive for United Way. From there, it kept growing, and she continued to get involved and help in the community.

Some of the organizations that United Way serves include the backpack program, Salvation Army, Partners in Parenting, Boys and Girls Club of Detroit Lakes and White Earth, Red Cross, all rescue squads in the county, Food Pantry, The Refuge and many more.

"It really is a well-rounded group of communities that we work with," she said.

Although the variety of organizations that benefit from the United Way is a major plus, the variety of board members is a plus as well.

"The United Way Board is one of the most energetic groups that I have served with," she said. "They are so caring. They care about all areas of the community. I think that draws me to them because every person on that board is on some other non-profit committee in our community. They are very dedicated volunteers."

Before being voted in as president, Houts had served on the United Way board for several years. She is on her fifth year with the organization.

"You have to decide what you're dedicated to, what you want to help," Houts explains of being involved in the community. "The youth of our community have always been my No. 1 priority."

Not to say the elderly and others in need aren't high on her list of priorities either.

"There is such a need in our community for United Way to help out the agencies. Without the help of United Way, some of these agencies might not exist."

Looking to the future, Houts said her "goal is to continue to support just a great board."

The upcoming United Way Community Celebration is Thursday, Sept. 16, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Pavilion. There will be booths set up from the organizations that United Way supports, a free picnic and kids games. The payroll drive is also this fall.

"It is the support of Becker County that makes all those programs possible. United Way is just a tool to use to hit as many non-profit organizations as you can."