Editor’s note: Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.
Bill Hulterstrom was born and raised in Southern California before making the almost 500 mile move to Provo, where he attended and graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s degree in 1981.
When Hulterstrom moved to Utah, he said he came to gain a true understanding and appreciation for the power of the concept of a neighbor. After having the opportunity to be a part of a community where people care about each other, Hulterstrom never looked back and set up permanent roots in Utah.
After graduating with a four-year degree, Hulterstrom spent two years working as the projects director for the Special Olympics of Utah before making his way through the ranks of the United Way of Utah County over almost 40 years. Now, Hulterstrom is the organization’s president and chief executive officer.
“When you work in the nonprofit sector, you work with the nicest people,” Hulterstrom said. “You work with people who volunteer. You work with people who want to donate their money. You work with people who want to share their time, talent and treasures. That’s quite rewarding.”
The United Way of Utah County tackles a number of community-wide issues by partnering with other agencies to take a multifaceted approach. In the 1980s, the United Way focused on domestic violence, working to establish shelters and other programs.
In recent years, the organization has been placing emphasis on two major concerns: mental illness among the younger generation, and the education of first-time parents.
Welcome Baby is a new parent educational program where volunteers meet with new moms who don’t necessarily have a support system to offer support and provide resources.
“We discovered quite a few years ago that we have a lot of first-time mothers that don’t have their mother and grandmother’s support to guide them through this new challenging state of life,” Hulterstrom said. “As anybody who has had a child knows, that’s a pretty frightening experience.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, all home visits have been moved to an online platform, but volunteers are still being matched with new mothers and fathers. During the visits, the volunteer will go through information regarding the child’s health and development as well as resources to help mothers with postpartum depression.
Another aspect of the program involves parenting classes, which have also transitioned into an online medium, to help parents of preschool-age children learn how to help children learn, especially in regards to literacy.
Other than offering support, the Welcome Baby program is meant to help parents prepare their children for kindergarten and succeed in school.
Especially in today’s world, Hulterstrom said, all of the stresses of being a new mother are compounded with the fear and anxiety caused by living through a pandemic.
“Being shown ways that remind us that we’re going to be OK, helping mothers know that they’re going to be OK, that they’ve got this, has been very affirming,” he said. “We’re in stressful times.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Janie Brigman, the organization’s corporate engagement and marketing director, said there has been an increase in people interested in parenting classes. In the past month, volunteers have participated in 24 home visits, which Brigman said is right on par with a normal month, but parenting classes are now receiving over 2,000 participants and have given out over 200 workbooks.
Because of the ability to reach more people, Brigman said the organization is considering continuing to offer virtual home visits.
A lot of Hulterstrom’s motivation and inspiration comes from the people around him. Hulterstrom said the people he works with every day who make hard work in the community look easy are his heroes. More so, however, are the seasoned grandparents who are capable of showing unconditional love to everyone they meet.
“I cannot imagine not being able to be surrounded by such great people,” he said.
Likewise, Brigman said working with Hulterstrom is inspiring. From her perspective, Hulterstrom is an optimistic leader who sets attainable goals that still push his staff to better themselves. He’s motivated and compassionate, especially when it comes to the communities United Way serves and the volunteers that help make everything happen, Brigman said.
Classes and home visits are available for free online, and the program is available to anyone in need, regardless of income.