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Community Foundation(s): Central Minnesota
Award: 2022 ATHENA Award
An ambassador for youth, a mentor to young women, and a woman who is described by her peers as being the heart and soul of the nonprofit to which she’s dedicated her life’s work, Geri Bechtold was selected as the 2022 ATHENA Award recipient.
The ATHENA Award is a lifetime achievement award recognizing exceptional women leaders who inspire others to achieve excellence in their professional and personal lives. Geri was chosen for the ATHENA Award because of her dedication to mentoring women and girls professionally as well as through personal mentorships and community partnerships.
Currently, Geri is the Vice President of Operations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota. She started at the Clubs part-time more than 30 years ago and since turned it into her career. She started out as a program manager for the Kennedy location KIDSTOP in the 90s. Later she went on to create the Junior Volunteer Leadership program to help give teens leadership opportunities in her K-6 program. She also launched the St. Joseph Community Evening Outreach Program which helped provide youth a safe place to gather, all while the community was hurting after the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling.
About 15 years ago, Geri was asked to oversee all Boys & Girls Club’s K-6 school-based KIDSTOP sites. Geri has been instrumental in helping the Boys & Girls Clubs pivot during challenging times, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. She prioritized finding a way to keep programs safe and accessible for youth, established a childcare program for frontline workers and launching virtual programming including video messages, weekly Zoom meetings and creating a Virtual Club on their website. For the virtual club staff contribute weekly instructional videos in the arts, STEM, dance, reading and career development fields.
Along with her work at the Boys & Girls Clubs, Geri also supports and partners with the United Way of Central Minnesota on their youth education programs as well as some of the Central Minnesota area school districts. Right now, she is working to launch a program in area schools that will help students who have lost credits during the pandemic, earn them. Geri is also working in the St. Cloud school district to support a program designed to decrease the early learning education gaps among children.
Aimee Minnerath is the Senior Director of Communications for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota, she nominated Geri for the ATHENA award.
She says, “Geri truly is the heart and soul of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota. She has been with the organization since she started part-time more than 30 years ago. She had planned on going into education, but the Boys & Girls Club grabbed a hold of her heart and never let go.”
Tracy Beyer is the 2005 Boys & Girls Clubs Youth of the Year recipient. She’s since become a site manager and credits Geri for being her mentor and inspiring her and others to succeed.
“Geri is not only committed to our members and our families; she is also committed to us as employees. Geri Bechtold has inspired me to be the best staff and the best person I can be. She has helped lead me from being a youth development staff and pushed me to achieve more, such as a college degree and being a program manager at the Boys & Girls Clubs. There hasn’t been a time in my life that I can remember that Geri hasn’t been there to lead me positively both professionally and personally. She pushes all of us to do our very best for the kids and families at the Boys & Girls Clubs and it’s been an honor to have her mentor me over the years.”