April’s How I LIVE UNITED: Give

Each month, we spotlight someone from our community who is LIVING UNITED by choosing to Give, Advocate or Volunteer.

What started as an assignment quickly became a passion for Elder Merrill Bateman. About six years ago, he was asked to serve on a statewide committee that focused on children in foster and kinship care. Soon after, he was asked to serve as the chair of a subcommittee on kinship care.

The more he worked with the programs associated with the committee, the more he realized the good that the programs could accomplish. Grandfamilies is a program that focuses on supporting families who are in a kinship care setting. He knew the program could be successful in counties other than just Salt Lake and Tooele and approached United Way of Utah County about starting it here.

“I felt strongly that the programs needed to expand,” Bateman said. “I became aware that organizations not only need volunteers but also financial support. My wife and I decided this was an area where we should give. I believe there are enormous returns to helping this program. Children in kinship care do much better than those in foster care in terms of meeting the challenges. It’s hard to substitute for a grandmother, grandfather, aunt or uncle.”

Bateman has not only personally given to the program but has recruited other people to get involved both financially and through volunteering. His all-around support led to Grandfamilies recently completing its first set of classes in Utah County. The next set of 12-15 week classes is already full.

“We try to determine how to help these families meet the challenges that are presented when a child shows up on their doorstep,” Bateman said. “It’s a low-cost program that helps them overcome the initial hurdles that exist. The program works not only with the kin who are the caregivers but also with the parents.”

Bateman is a great example of a dedicated community member.

“Elder Bateman has been a significant leader in the community for many years,” said Barbara Leavitt, early childhood initiative director at United Way of Utah County. “He has wisely used his influence to build a program that will strengthen families. He’s a great example of someone who LIVES UNITED by giving, advocating and volunteering.”

According to Bateman, everyone should consider giving to something they care about.

“It’s good to give even when it is small,” he said. “That’s how you start. You don’t have to give large amounts to make an impact. I believe that what you give comes back to you. When you give good things, you get good things in return. One of the most important things we can do is to serve in the community.”

For more information on the Grandfamilies program, contact Barbara at barbaral@unitedwayuc.org or 801-374-2588.

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