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United Way of Utah County: National recognition for community leader well deserved

By Bill Hulterstrom - Special to the Daily Herald | Nov 18, 2023
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Barbara Leavitt is shown teaching a class on strengthening families.
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Barbara Leavitt, center, recently received the Joanna Bogin Award from the Help Me Grow National Center. Also pictured are Janae Moss, left, and Paul Dworkin.
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Bill Hulterstrom is president and CEO of United Way of Utah County.

One thing that makes Utah County special is the way that we focus on children. As the youngest county in the state and one of the youngest counties in the country, Utah County is fortunate to have many resources to help children live healthy and happy lives.

None of these resources would exist without the many talented and dedicated people who work every day to support children and their parents. From providing educational support to financial resources and volunteer medical care, these community leaders are incredible examples of what it means to Live United.

Today, I’d like to highlight one of these leaders and a dear friend of mine who recently received well-deserved recognition for her tireless efforts on behalf of parents and children in our community. Barbara Leavitt, who recently retired after serving as vice president for community impact at United Way of Utah County for 17 years, was awarded the Joanna Bogin Award from the Help Me Grow National Center. This award “honors individuals who have dedicated their life’s work to building powerful systems of care and support that work both with and for families,” and no one is more deserving of this recognition than Barbara.

For more than a decade of her career, Barbara dedicated herself to supporting parents and children as well as helping parents feel the value of their efforts. In her acceptance speech for this award, Barbara expressed her love and support for parents: “Parents do the hardest job there is, and they never get any credit.”

In all of her interactions with families, Barbara showed her care and concern for parents. She let them know she saw their efforts and recognized their sacrifices and that their love for their children makes a difference every day.

One of Barbara’s legacies here at United Way is Help Me Grow Utah. This free helpline, which provides child development screenings, referrals to community resources and personalized parent support, reaches thousands of families every year. It was Barbara’s vision to bring this resource to Utah when there were only a few other states looking to implement the program.

In the years since Help Me Grow Utah was implemented, thousands of children have received the resources they needed to thrive, and thousands of parents have received the support they needed to keep on going.

Barbara’s impact on the lives of individual families is truly unmatched, and the impact she has had for good is almost unimaginable. Her passion and tenacity led her to find creative solutions, build strong partnerships and advocate tirelessly for those who were not able to advocate for themselves.

Paul Dworkin, founding director of the Help Me Grow National Center, said, “Barbara’s success in bringing Help Me Grow Utah to scale and impact both inspired us and elevated our confidence in our capacity to diffuse the model across the nation. System building is predicated on strong, trusting, respectful relationships, and Barbara’s relationship-building skills are simply remarkable.”

Janae Moss, Help Grow Utah’s parent champion, said, “Barbara transformed my life for the better. She came out of nowhere and left me a changed person who tries to emulate the valuable lessons she has taught me. People who learn to live like Barbara enjoy a life of love, joy and meaning.”

Like so many others, I am proud to call Barbara a friend. I have learned so much from her over the years, and I admire her dedication to Utah families. Her love for parents and their children is unparalleled, and her ability to build bridges is inspiring. Thanks to her, so many people have gotten involved in supporting each other.

To quote Barbara again, “I’m so grateful that we’re working all of us across the country, and across the world, to support (parents) in that great job.”

I, too, am grateful for Barbara and all those who are working to support parents. Thank you, Barbara, for being such an incredible example to me and to each of us. I hope we can take inspiration from you and commit to doing a little more to support the families around us.

To learn more about Help Me Grow and other resources for families, visit unitedwayuc.org.


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