City woman gives time and talents to several community initiatives

·6 min read

Jul. 10—Rosemary Bohenek has spent many years stepping up to help wherever and whenever she can.

From children's causes to food banks and in both her work and free time, the Scranton resident has made an impact on her community, efforts that have earned her recognition from her peers.

"I really just want to see a difference in our community," Bohenek said. "And I love our community. I've lived here my entire life, so definitely going out and making a difference in our world is what really drives me."

Bohenek, who grew up and still lives in the city's Tripp Park neighborhood, graduated from West Scranton High School and attended Marywood College before embarking on a varied career that included stints as a certified nursing assistant, veterinary technician and dental assistant. She spent the majority of her career at Allied Services and later moved on to the Children's Advocacy Center of Northeastern Pennsylvania, where she served as fundraising coordinator.

"It was an inspiring team that I worked with," Bohenek said of the Scranton-based CAC. "They truly are there for the kids, and that inspired me to try to fundraise to the best of my abilities so that they could provide the services that they desperately need, that the children desperately need."

For nearly a year now, Bohenek has worked as the marketing coordinator for the Viewmont Mall in Scranton and Dickson City, a position that involves promoting the mall and covering its events.

"I love the variety that I have every day," Bohenek said.

Bohenek has stayed busy outside of work, too, not only raising her two sons, Daniel, 17, and Jacob, 14, with her husband of 22 years, Jason, but also by volunteering with several groups. She began helping others in her youth, spending time in high school as a volunteer at a nursing home through PennSERVE, the commonwealth's state service commission. Her big responsibility these days is as president of the board of the Bread Basket of NEPA, a nonprofit she joined in 2020 upon the encouragement of a friend.

"Feeding our neighbors is something that's so critical to our community," Bohenek said.

The Bread Basket runs seven food pantries in Lackawanna County: Christ the King Parish, 429 Church St., Archbald; St. Michael's Church, 322 First Ave., Jessup; and Elm Park United Methodist Church, 712 Linden St.; Embury United Methodist Church, 942 S. Main Ave.; Heaven's Door Church, 830 Cedar Ave.; Our Father's House, 1820 Church Ave.; and VFW Post 25, 2291 Rockwell Ave., all in Scranton. And since the pandemic began, Bohenek said, the number of people in need has increased and continues to grow, especially because of recent inflation.

"What we're seeing right now is an uptick in clients because people are not getting their stimulus checks like they were last year, and the price of food has skyrocketed," she said.

Bohenek expects the organization to focus more on fundraising in the future to help it continue its mission. She is excited that the Bread Basket has been able to add two pantries in Scranton to better serve residents, and she praised the others involved with the group for making that all possible.

"The work that the board does is supported by the volunteers who are so dedicated to our community," Bohenek said. "They inspire me every day because week in and week out they show up and give their time and dedication. ... We're blessed with a great team. Between the board and the executive director and the volunteers, it's just a well-oiled machine."

Bohenek's volunteer efforts over the years have extended to a wide variety of causes, including as basket raffle chairwoman at St. Paul's Parish in Scranton from 2013 to 2018.

"It was fun soliciting donations and seeing the final outcome," Bohenek said. "It was always interesting trying to raise more money than the year before."

She also previously served as the fundraising officer for Cinderella's Closet, which she helped for three years. A former project of the Junior League of Scranton, the organization now is a nonprofit based out of the Marketplace at Steamtown in Scranton. It collects gently used prom gowns that it then sells to girls for a nominal fee and also provides scholarships to local students.

"My mom was a single mom, and I know how much she sacrificed every time there was a school function, a field trip, a dance," Bohenek said. "She had to sacrifice for me to be able to partake in that. I'm so blessed with my children where we're never in a position that we need to choose, but for those families that are, it's so important for them to have that resource."

In the Abingtons, Bohenek belongs to a networking group in which business-minded people get together to talk about projects and bounce ideas off one another. And back in Scranton, she serves on the city's Human Relations Commission, a group of people she said are "just getting (their) feet wet" but who hope "to have equality throughout the city."

"We're looking to reach out to the community, basically, to let them know we're here and available if they need (us)," Bohenek said.

Her caring spirit extends to animals as well. The owner of three dogs and a hamster, she belongs to the NEPA Animal Welfare Collaborative, which she said aims "to educate the community about animal welfare and to have spay-and-neuter clinics throughout the community."

"I've always been a huge animal lover," Bohenek said. "Anyone who knows me knows that, and I just really am attracted to the idea of getting the community on board with proper animal welfare, which is spaying and neutering your pets."

In 2019, Bohenek added another group to her list when she joined the North Scranton Rotary Club, where she has helped with its annual dictionary project that ensures that every third-grade class in Scranton School District gets a dictionary.

"It's so important for these kids to have something of their own," Bohenek said. "And the dictionary is also a way for us to spread the word about what we're all about because we also put the mission statement in the dictionary."

Bohenek's helpful efforts caught the attention of the rest of the club, who awarded her the Gino Marrazzo Memorial Rotarian of the Year Award last fall. The award recognizes "service above self," and Bohenek said it left her "very surprised." Considering all she has done for and given to the community over the years, though, both in and out of the Rotary Club, Bohenek seemed destined for the recognition.

"It was a tremendous honor to be recognized by my fellow Rotarians," she said.

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