A United Community

This Saturday, Welcome Baby staff will provide a fun activity at a free Spring Family Event. There will be games, activities, and prizes from 10-12pm.  We are looking forward to attending!  We were invited to attend from a woman who is a blogger for Utah Valley Moms, who used to be a home visitor for our Welcome Baby home visitation program.  The activity we will be providing is a simple matching game – match the pompoms to the correct colored flower. 

As I thought about how we got involved with this event, I began to see the “team effort” it will take for this event to occur.  This reminded me of the amazing community that we live in.  It takes a whole community - volunteers to create kits for young children to enjoy for a few minutes; programs that provide activities that also promote child development (in this case, problem-solving and fine motor skills); committees who plan, organize, and execute free events; A location where families can enjoy celebrating Springtime and doing fun activities together. 

We truly live in a community that is looking out for each other.

Some other great things are going on in Utah County:

Dr. Emily Hoffman, Senior Master Trainer at VitalSmarts presented to 18 organizations on the Influencer Model at the March Help Me Grow Networking Breakfast.  These Networking Breakfasts which are held every other month in Utah County provide an opportunity to make connections with other organizations in the community so that families can be connected into the resources that best fit their situation.

For Americorps Week at the end of March, several VISTAs serving with United Way of Utah County, including myself, had the opportunity to help open tons of paint cans that had been donated to the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.  Typically, when someone is finished painting the walls in their house, or a wooden fence, they no longer need that paint, so it sits in their garage for months, and sometimes years.  However, I learned that there is a way to reuse that paint!  Donate the left over paint to Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and they will mix it to create a new color that other people can use in their homes! 

Next Saturday, April 26th form 10 am to 2 pm is the Take Back Event – All unused prescription and over-the-counter medications can be taken to designated locations. Visit this websit efor more information:

Tax season has ended today and the VITA Program helped hundreds of people do their taxes for FREE!

Provo Police Department Citizens Academy is a seven week course that the Police Department puts on for citizens to learn about the different areas of the department, so we can strengthen our relationship as a community.

I could go on and on about the events happening right now in Utah County that demonstrate how we live in a united community.  I guess the point of this blog post is, as we all have seen on the Disney movie and on boradway across the world, "It’s the Circle of Life!”  We all need each other to Live United. 

How I Learned to be a Better Volunteer in Service to America

As a perfectionist, some of my most valuable learning experiences have been learning not to be perfect.  In my personal interactions, I had always put pressure on myself to say the “right” thing, or at the very least- not embarrass myself completely.  Ultimately, I was so worried about how I appeared to others that I paralyzed myself.  A few years ago, a friend taught me that I didn’t need to be perfect.  My friend was beloved.  I watched him interact with people of all age groups and backgrounds and it was inevitable that the person he had talked to would rave about how great he was the next time I saw them. “But you two only talked for ten minutes…” I would think to myself.  BUT I found out his secret. He…. drumroll please… asked questions.

Instead of worrying about how he looked or filling those so-called awkward pauses, he reflected and simply asked another question to whoever he was talking to.  It amazed me that such a simple concept allowed him to truly connect with people.  The art of conversation became demystified and I began to improve my relationships with old and new acquaintances.

Having a great conversation with someone leaves us feeling connected, happy, and content.  These relationships allow us to teach and learn at the same time.  I am fortunate enough to build relationships every day in my work as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for United Way of Utah County.  The AmeriCorps VISTA program has been operating for more than 20 years, and it sends volunteers like me to work for local non-profit organizations for a year.  As Volunteers in Service to America, we work to make an impact on the most critical issues facing our nation- but we do it at the local level.  More than 80,000 AmeriCorps members serve our nation every year.  VISTAs work in all areas, from education and youth, veterans affairs, disaster relief, economic opportunity, health, environment and more.  As a lead VISTA for the South Franklin Community Center, I get to connect with people every day to find out how their projects are going, to see what people like and don’t like, and to learn more about the community I am working in.  

Being a VISTA at United Way of Utah County is the perfect fit for me because we believe that change happens at the local level.  It is our neighbors, friends, and families who have the best ideas for improving our communities and our lives. The South Franklin Community Center’s mission is to promote individual growth and encourage relationship building by providing access to educational programs.  Participation in programs fosters community spirit and increases the quality of life in the neighborhood as networks are built and knowledge is shared.  Basically, we want to improve the southwest Provo community by building relationships in the community. 

As a VISTA, questions have allowed me to find opportunities for funding, meet new community partners, improve programs, and most importantly make new friends in Provo.  Go out and ask a person one question about their lives, we bet you will make a new friend by the end of the day! 

Pictured above from left to right, VISTA Josy, United Way member Rosangela, VISTA Gretchen, and VISTA Kirsten at the Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the South Franklin Community Center in July 2013. 

The Numbers of VITA

Here are the amazing numbers that have come from this year's VITA sites so far!

11 VITA sites in Utah County. We have sites in Payson, Spanish Fork, Provo, Orem, American Fork, and Lehi. All are equipped with IRS-certified volunteers who are ready to help you!

2,300 returns prepared. Our VITA sites have helped over 2,300 people prepare their 2013 taxes for free! 

4,200,000 dollars brought back into the community. VITA prepares your taxes for free which means you get to keep more of your return. Think of how much that money can help create financial stability for your family!

720 clients who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC) is available to those who qualify. Most people don't even know they can claim this helpful credit!

1,500,000 dollars that clients received through the Earned Income Tax Credit. This EIC can make a huge difference in the lives of low-income families. Ask your VITA tax preparer for more information!

50 appointments left! Our VITA sites are open for two more weeks! Call to make your appointment today and take part in this amazing program!


Bring the world to someone's doorstep!

THIS SATURDAY you can make a big difference in someone's life!
Technology brings people together and improves lives. 
Many local families don’t have regular access to the internet. Think about the hundreds of ways you use internet in your daily life. Without internet, it’s so much harder to search for job openings, check in on your children’s grades, or keep in touch with family far away.
The world opens up when you get connected to the internet. 
Thanks to Google, we’re very excited about the opportunity to provide Free Internet access to Provo residents. We need your help to keep spreading the word about free internet in Provo. We’ll focus our efforts on those families most in need. 
Join us on March 22 for a special event, and enjoy a few hours helping us get more Provo families online.
We’ll meet at Dixon Middle School for a free breakfast and a brief training, and then divide up in groups and go talk to our neighbors. At noon we’ll get back together for lunch, 
compliments of Google.
If you would like to participate, please fill out this form and feel free to share this with your friends. We’ll reach out with more details. 
Thanks, and see you soon!

Meet Your Friendly (and Free!) Neighborhood Tax Preparers

I'd like to introduce you to some special people who can make a big difference for you this tax season.


Meet Pam.


Pam likes gardening, reading, and caring for her chickens. Pam has been volunteering with the VITA program for eight years! When asked why she volunteers, she responded, “it’s fun meeting new people and figuring out tax problems - every situation is unique”. Pam advises those who are thinking of coming to a VITA site to not be afraid, our trained volunteers will walk you through the process!


Meet Terry.


Terry has been volunteering as a tax preparer with VITA for two years. He loves to golf and go fishing.. He volunteers with VITA because he loves to help others. He advises to those preparing for their VITA appointment to remember all the documents our appointment setters have told you to bring so your appointment can go smoothly.


Meet Dean.


Dean has been a VITA volunteer for 3 years. He enjoys golfing and traveling. Dean volunteers his time with the VITA program because he enjoys taxes and wants to help others in need who are less comfortable with tax law.


These are just three of our 250 VITA volunteers who take the time to prepare taxes for our community members free of charge. It is through our volunteers that we are able to make the VITA program possible! All volunteers go through IRS certification courses and are certified in fields from basic returns, to more advanced, and can specialize in Health Savings Accounts, Cancellation of Debt, Military, and International tax situations.

You can have your taxes filed for free with one of our friendly and knowledgeable volunteers. Call 2-1-1 (801-377-6600) to make an appointment at a tax site near you. But hurry: tax season ends April 15th!


Yay for Community! An Intern's story

This blog post was written by a guest blogger, and current Intern with Help Me Grow Utah and Welcome Baby. 

United Way represents the opposite of selfish living. It is an organization built upon human kindness and service.  I applied to be an intern with United Way, (and specifically Help Me Grow and Welcome Baby), because my sister and cousin had done it, and seemed to enjoy it. I honestly had no idea what I was getting involved in. It was one of those things that I had seen and heard about, but had never processed or come to understand.  After getting accepted as an intern, I finally learned about the goals and vision of United Way. I have learned so much about the community and what resources are available to people just by simply asking! It has been such a pleasant surprise to know that I live in a world where people dedicate their life to helping others, including people like me.

            As a result of my internship, I am now super aware of my surroundings. I look out for events and resources that could be useful for those around me. If I see someone in need, I feel confident that I could help them, or at the very least, direct them to people who can.  While I have worked here I have thought to myself (in full panic) “What if I move away from Utah?! am I going to get connected to resources and have people visit me and my baby and give me tools necessary to be awesome?!”…..And then I learned that United Way is so much bigger than just Utah County. And Help Me Grow is in almost half the states in the nation!


There are organizations all over to help people everywhere. I am proud to say that I am a small part of this world where people are helping people, and I will forever be an advocate, believer and cheerleader for United Way! 

Double your impact on March 20th

Ladies and gentlemen, be sure to mark March 20th on your calendar as a day when you have an opportunity to DOUBLE your impact.

Yep, you read that right. For this special day that is Love Utah Give Utah, an anonymous donor will match each dollar donated through THIS website up to $5,000!

Want to donate $10 to United Way of Utah County? On March 20th it becomes $20! Want to donate $20? For this one day only, it will be like donating $40. And if you donate $100, you are basically donating $200! How wonderful is that?

(If you have no idea what Love Utah Give Utah is, check out the following video for an explanation)

Now let me answer two questions you may have.

1. Why donate to United Way of Utah County? We take a holistic approach to doing good in Utah County. That means that we take a look at the needs of the WHOLE community and allocate resources where they are needed the most. This requires working together with other local organizations and communities to help those in our community who are most vulnerable. Our resources help people you know and they may even be able to help you.

Through United Way of Utah County:

-More than 250 students annually receive basic necessities like food, glasses, hearing aids, or school supplies

-More than 2,200 children have been screened for developmental delays

-100+ doctors’ offices, banks, and nonprofit agencies distribute books to help kids love to read and learn

2. Why donate on March 20th instead of any other day of the year? Not only do we have a matching donor for this one day only, it is a day when people throughout Utah are donating to their favorite organizations! As we work together we reach farther, stretching our impact. Not only can we help those that United Way serves, but we also help those who are new to philanthropy learn the joy of donating to a good cause.

Donating online is easy, and a great way for you parents to teach your children about giving back to the community they live in. Just be sure to donate through our page and NOT our regular donation page.

If March 20th is not a good day for you, you can schedule your donation ahead of time. 

Thank you and we love you!


How it works: All donations made on are made to the Razoo Foundation, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization which permits donors to advise a regranting of their donations to other IRS recognized qualifying 501(c)(3). The Razoo Foundation will regrant 94% of its contribution to the qualifying organization as advised by the donor, retaining 4.9% for Razoo Foundation fees and distributing 1.1% to The Community Foundation of Utah to cover a small portion of the event hosting costs.

Welcome Baby Playgroup at South Franklin Community Center

As children are growing up and learning about the world around them, they need a variety of experiences in order to grow in the right ways. Research has actually shown that one of the key ways to strengthen your child’s social and emotional skills is by taking them to a community playgroup where they can interact with other children.

Welcome Baby currently has a playgroup in the South Franklin Community Center in Provo that is open to children under five and their parents on Fridays at 11 am.

For our Provo playgroup on Valentine ’s Day, we started out the day with free-play where we had the chance to play with blocks, cars, and other fun toys together. Then we moved on to making Valentine’s Day cards by tracing our hands. See how cute they turned out? This activity helped develop fine motor skills as the children have a chance to color. 


When all hands were traced, it was time to read “The Kiss Box” for story time. All the children gathered on a rug as they were read to, enhancing their cognitive development.

Then it was time for everyone’s favorite part of the day: snack time! In honor of Valentine’s Day, we made mini heart-shaped pizzas and we ate oranges too.  

One of the best parts to observe while attending playgroup is watching the moms and children interact with eachother.  This is one of the most important parts of attending playgroup - providing a place where both parents and children can make social connections and build friendships. A few moms have started coming because another playgroup mom told her about it, and now she comes almost every week!   

Check out how much fun we all had during playgroup and look below for a general schedule of what you can expect at playgroup each Friday. We hope others will join in all the fun and come to Provo Playgroup to LIVE UNITED as a community!

Typical Playgroup Schedule:

11:00-11:20   Play time

11:20-11:25   Clean up

11:25- 11:45   Story time/ singing/ finger plays

11:45-12:00    Arts/ crafts

12:00- 12:15   Snack time

12:15-12:30    Large motor/games Clean up



Written by: Melissa Bills, Welcome Baby Intern


Hancock, K., Lawrence, D., Mitrou, F., Zarb, D., Berthelsen, D., Nicholson, J. M., & Zubrick, S. R. (2012). The association between playgroup participation, learning competence and social-emotional wellbeing for children aged 4-5 years in Australia. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood.


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