homepage logo

United Way of Utah County: Community centers create connection

By Bill Hulterstrom - Special to the Daily Herald | Apr 20, 2024
1 / 3
Volunteers pose in front of the United Way Center of South Franklin in Provo.
2 / 3
A local firefighter gives a demonstration to kids as part of the summer learning program at the United Way Center of South Franklin in Provo.
3 / 3
A volunteer reads with a child as part of a summer learning program at the United Way Center of South Franklin in Provo.

I think one of the best things about our community is the way people come together to build networks of support. From neighborhood book clubs to regular volunteer assignments, Utah County residents care about spending time together, and one of my favorite places to spend time with friends and neighbors in Utah County is in a local community center.

Community centers really function as the heart of a neighborhood. They provide safe places for our kids, our parents and even our grandparents to learn new things, make new friends and help each other. Dedicated volunteers, community champions and generous donors all help make these locations special.

One of these special locations is the United Way Center of South Franklin in Provo. This center was founded about 15 years ago thanks to the efforts of passionate AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, visionary neighborhood leaders and so many other partners. In its earliest days, the community center did not have a dedicated building. Creative solutions, including working with The Boulders apartments to find space within the apartment complex, enabled the center to start providing programming for local families.

Since its opening in March 2009, the United Way Center of South Franklin has grown exponentially. From its beginnings in a shared space, South Franklin has moved into a dedicated building built in 2013 through an amazing partnership with Provo City, Habitat for Humanity, Horizon Management and the Provo City Housing Authority. Thanks to their generous support, the community center is able to provide incredible services with very low overhead and operating costs, making it possible for community members from all demographics to participate in programs at no cost.

With added space came additional programs and resources designed to support the community. From its beginnings offering nutrition classes, tutoring and a soccer program, South Franklin has expanded to offer more than 25 programs during just this semester. These programs range from physical activity programs such as Zumba to music classes, art classes and computer classes for kids and adults.

There are also mental health and community integration programs designed to increase connections and build relationships. Programming is offered in both English and Spanish, making these resources available to many more of our neighbors and friends.

Of course, none of these programs would be possible without the dozens of volunteers who teach classes, mentor youth and facilitate parent groups. These volunteers give their time selflessly, and their efforts have created a supportive community within the walls of the center. These relationships, many of which have lasted for years, extend even beyond the programs at South Franklin as neighbors who participate in these services come to know each other in a deeper way.

Throughout all of this growth, South Franklin has kept its focus on the community. From its earliest days, programs were offered based on feedback from community members about the type of services they wanted. The ultimate goal of South Franklin is to build community and encourage residents to work together to enhance their lives and their surroundings.

The amazing success that we’ve seen at South Franklin is truly inspiring, and that’s why I’m so excited about new community centers United Way is establishing around the county in partnership with many civic and community leaders.

Just last month, we announced the opening of a new community center in Payson: the United Way Center Payson. This center, which is generously funded by the Revere Health Foundation, is designed to be a beacon of hope and advancement for the Payson community just as the United Way Center of South Franklin has been for the Provo community.

The Payson center will offer community resources for children and adults as well as bring neighbors together through early education, literacy and STEM classes. These programs will be taught in English and Spanish in order to reach as many people as possible.

In addition to the United Way Center Payson, we are actively looking for new partners in other communities across the county who are interested in bringing these special places to their own neighborhoods. I truly believe community centers bring out the best in our neighborhoods; they help us increase our skills, build bridges with those around us and create opportunities for us to thrive. But you don’t have to take my word for it — come visit one of these centers and see for yourself.

To learn more about the United Way Center of South Franklin and the United Way Center Payson, or to find out how you can get more involved, visit unitedwayuc.org.


Join thousands already receiving our daily newsletter.

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)