Please join the board and staff of Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota in congratulating Geri Bechtold for 30 years of service to youth at the organization.
Geri truly is the heart and soul of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Minnesota. She has been with the organization since she started as a volunteer 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.
Geri lives and breathes and bleeds Boys & Girls Club blue! She always has a ton of energy and can rally up a group of kids like nobody else! if there is a group of kids waiting for a bus, she can come up with a game right off the top of her head to keep them busy while waiting in line so that the time flies by.
Geri makes every kid feel special and important. She learns their names and interests quickly and always asks about their day. She inspires everyone around her to be a better person and to care even more about the kids in their lives.
Geri is committed to providing quality programs and services to youth who may not have access to these opportunities without the support of the Boys & Girls Club. She became the program manager of Boys & Girls Club’s Kennedy KIDSTOP program for K-6th graders in the ’90s. She could have stopped there, knowing she was supporting the healthy development of more than 100 youth every day. But she didn’t. She knew teenagers needed a positive, safe place to be after school and in the evenings, too. So, she developed a strong Junior Volunteer program to give teens leadership opportunities in her K-6 program. Then she launched the St. Joseph Community Evening Outreach Program. This was a completely mission-driven service she provided for the youth in her community – in a community that was hurting after the kidnapping of Jacob Wetterling. She saw a challenge in her community and she solved a problem with her great big heart for kids.
About 15 years ago, Geri was asked to oversee all Boys & Girls Club’s K-6 school-based KIDSTOP sites. Although it was hard for her to leave her home site of Kennedy and the many kids she loved, she knew that she could make an impact on thousands of youth across the St. Cloud metro area by sharing her best practices with other program managers, training and mentoring other youth development professionals and strengthening relationships with schools.
Since COVID-19 hit, Geri has worked around the clock to ensure quality programs and services continued running for our kids and that everyone remained safe and healthy. She worked with our staff team and school district partners to launch a childcare program for frontline workers the next day after the governor announced the closure of schools. She inspired our team to launch virtual programming in the form of video messages to kids, weekly Zoom meetings, and even a Virtual Club on our website, in which staff contribute weekly instructional videos in the arts, STEM, dance, reading, career development and more. Geri helped our staff re-open our Club and school-based KIDSTOP programs for the summer under CDC and MDH requirements, and she continues to mentor the team as they innovate and pivot in this new way of programming during the pandemic. This fall, our staff are providing after-school programs, hybrid learning programs and distance learning programs for youth to meet all their needs. We also have been providing a Grab & Go meal program since the end of March, and we are distributing 5,000 meals per week during COVID-19.
Geri has inspired many of our youth to go into youth-serving or social service positions, because they say they want to give back to the community because they received so much care from the Club and from Geri. Geri has mentored so many of these youth and one of those youth is running one of our sites today!
“I would like to thank Geri for always being there for me as a child all the way until I graduated,” said 2005 Youth of the Year Sasha Kampa. “She was also an enormous impact on me and my family, as we went through some difficult times when I was a kid. She was a great influence on me and helped shape me into the person I am today. Without her, I don’t know where I would have been. Thanks, Geri!”
“If I could describe Geri Bechtold in one word, it would be committed,” said Tracy Beyer, Kennedy KIDSTOP Site Manager. “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 and Girls Club. 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 and Girls Club and it’s been an honor to have her mentor me over the years.
The board and staff cannot thank Geri Bechtold enough for the lifetime commitment she has made to supporting the important mission of the Boys & Girls Club, “to do whatever it takes to empower all youth, especially those who need us most, to reach their full potential.”