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Rev. John Nunes, LWR president and CEO, with Mickey Monsen, 2011 recipient of the “Friend of LWR” award.

Rev. John Nunes, LWR president and CEO, with Mickey Monsen, 2011 recipient of the “Friend of LWR” award.

A Friend for Life

By Nikki Massie

To express themselves, some people draw, some sing, others write. Eighty-three year old Mildred (“Mickey”) Monsen organizes. To her, the ability to bring people together under a common cause is both a passion and a vocation. “It’s my way of following Jesus,” Mickey says. “And it’s what I love to do.”

That talent served her well for seven years as president of the Friends of Lutheran World Relief (FLWR), an independent non-profit organization established to support the mission of Lutheran World Relief. At a special ceremony held May 12 in Chicago, LWR president John Nunes presented Mickey with the Friend of Lutheran World Relief award (not affiliated with the organization) for her years of service.

“I think Mickey is simply amazing,” Nunes shares. “I’d give her the award twice if I could.”

FLWR focuses on two annual activities: an Ingathering in October that collects Quilt and Kit donations from area congregations and an annual luncheon to honor Quilt and Kit makers and raise awareness about LWR’s work.

Like LWR, FLWR began in the post-World War II years, as a project to foster inter-Lutheran cooperation and service. Mickey first became involved with FLWR in the late 1990s through her friend, former FLWR president Dolores Firszt. “She invited me to the annual luncheon,” Mickey recalls. After Firszt passed away, Mickey stepped in to help manage the organization.

The organization flourished and changed during Mickey’s tenure, much as the work of LWR did. For example, as LWR developed guidelines on how to uniformly assemble Quilts and Kits, Mickey saw the opportunity for FLWR to share that information with congregations. And it was during her time as president that the organization created a website.

“Mickey is a forward thinker,” says Elizabeth Gotsch, current president of FLWR. “Not many organizations like ours had websites, but she saw the good use in it.”

If you ask Mickey, she’d gladly give herself only a small portion of the credit for the tremendous work done in her time with FLWR. She feels the work of the entire organization, led by a pan-Lutheran board of women leaders, is nothing short of inspiring.

“The Ingathering started off with one collection site,” Mickey explains. “Now there are five! I worked with wonderful, capable women who knew how to make things happen.”

Brenda Kimaro, LWR’s director for engagement, who oversees the Quilt and Kit ministry adds, “Passionate and empowered people like Mickey are so important to the work of LWR. The dedication and organizational skills she’s given over the years have been a blessing.”

From Mickey’s perspective, it’s all in a day’s work. “When you are given a niche, you have to use it to improve the world. You just have to.”

Mickey recently moved from Illinois to Minnesota, to be closer to her family and friends. Although she no longer works with FLWR, she has nothing but great things to say about the organization and the women who lead it.

“I share the Friend of Lutheran World Relief award with all of them. I was part of a great group of women leaders,” she says.

These days, Mickey enjoys living in a cooperative community high on the bluffs of the Mississippi river. She spends her free time attending family events — and planning how she’ll continue to support Lutheran World Relief in the future.

“I’m very excited to do something around malaria,” she says. “I’ve made some connections. It may take a few months, but I’ll find a way continue supporting this great work!”

If you live in the Chicago area and want to know more about Friends of Lutheran World Relief, check out their website. If your congregation is interested in starting a Quilt and/or Kit ministry, learn more about the program then search for an Ingathering near you.

The Friend of Lutheran World Relief award is an opportunity for LWR recognize partnerships with people and organizations that help LWR work toward its mission of ending poverty, injustice and human suffering. Past recipients include former LWML president Betty Duda, former LIRS president Ralston H. Deffenbaugh, Jr., the Rev. April Ulring Larson and Rick Santos of IMA World Health.

Nikki Massie is LWR’s Staff Writer.

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