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United Way: A legacy of helping children grow

By Bill Hulterstrom - Special to the Daily Herald | Mar 18, 2023

Courtesy Riana Bruce-Goodsky

Bill Hulterstrom is president and CEO of United Way of Utah County.

Many things have changed during the past 60 years, but one thing hasn’t: United Way of Utah County’s commitment to supporting families and children. Since our organization was founded, we have understood how crucial it is that children are supported by our community from their earliest days, and thanks to passionate, visionary leaders, we have seen the immeasurable impact that such support can have on families.

One such leader, whose compassion and insight have helped direct United Way’s strategic efforts and impacted thousands of families over the past 15 years is Barbara Leavitt. Barbara, who has recently retired as Vice President of Community Impact after 17 years here at United Way of Utah County, spent her career empowering parents and family members to make healthy decisions for their children.

Her vision of a supportive community for parents led her to bring the Help Me Grow program to Utah, providing crucial resources to parents who need them. Her kindness and patience in working with volunteers has strengthened volunteerism across the community. Her experience and wisdom have led the way in changing systems that were negatively impacting Utah families, and replacing them with supportive networks that allow children to thrive.

One amazing example of Barbara’s impact is the growth of Help Me Grow Utah. Utah was one of just five affiliate states when the program began, and thanks to her dedication, it has now helped connect thousands of parents to information and referrals that provide peace of mind to families. Utah’s program has become an example to states across the nation.

The free Help Me Grow Utah helpline, which provides child development screenings, age-specific resources, referrals to community resources and personalized parent support, reaches thousands of families every year. The peace of mind and confidence this service provides parents is incalculable. It was Barbara’s vision that brought the program to Utah and that has guided its growth to impact families across the state.

Courtesy United Way

Barbara Leavitt speaking with a community member at a United Way event.

Barbara’s talent for connecting people, whether that be through formal programming, informal community networks, or personal mentorship, has been an inspiration to me and all of us here at United Way of Utah County. Dozens of board members, staff and volunteers have been inspired by her example.

“I have learned so much from watching how [Barbara] love[s] people around [her], and how [she] work[s] hard for [her] dreams and vision for the community,” says Michaelann Gardner, Senior Director of EveryDay Strong. Other colleagues agree.

“[Barbara’s] influence will be felt for generations of families,” said Jack Holmes, Vice President of Resource Development.

Perhaps the most powerful tribute to Barbara’s impact comes from Janae Moss, former board chair at United Way of Utah County. “It is hard for people to understand how frustrating it is to create a movement. It is much easier to be an early adopter or join down the road and continue pushing it forward … Barbara [has] true grit … that has benefitted countless families.”

Leaders like Barbara are one in a million — and here in Utah County, we are so fortunate to see such examples of leadership in many places. In our schools, in our workplaces, and in our neighborhoods, we know others who are leading the way to make sure that Barbara’s work (and the work of so many others) will continue to support parents and children for decades to come. Together, we can make sure that our community remains a shining example of caring for the youngest among us and their families for the next 60 years of United Way.

Courtesy United Way

Barbara Leavitt, recently retired Vice President of Community Impact at United Way of Utah County.

To learn more about Help Me Grow Utah or other resources that support parents and families, please visit unitedwayuc.org.

Barbara Leavitt with members of the Help Me Grow team.


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