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Sub for Santa program a year-round holiday success

January 5, 2019

The success of United Way of Utah County’s Sub for Santa program is not only seen on the faces of the children recipients but in the numbers of volunteers and families both giving and receiving this past holiday season.

According to Bill Hulterstrom, CEO and president of United Way of Utah County, the numbers of families needing extra holiday helped peaked during the height of the recession, came back down in number, but are now creeping upward again.

Cost of housing versus income, continuous individual family emergencies, and growth in the communities are contributing to the rise.

This year, 1,613 families were served by the Sub for Santa program that includes the Angel Tree and Giving Tree programs. That number includes 4,693 children who received Christmas gifts this year.

Data shows that 1,778 families applied and all but 128 were accepted as recipients. Those families that were denied either had too high an income, the children were too old, some other group or organization was also helping them or they lived outside of the area.

This year, United Way introduced the Sub for Santa Plus program. The program helps families with special struggles and concerns who applied for Sub for Santa get not only holiday help but also assistance from volunteers to connect them to year-round support, such as financial planning, employment and more.

Overall, Hulterstrom said it was heartening that just 42 percent of the families were seeking help for the first time.

“We’re seeing families struggling for two to three years and they don’t need help again. That’s the goal.”

Hulterstrom said the programs like Sub for Santa are a success because of the volunteers and the collaboration between companies and agencies.

“I’m seeing a better collaboration, that’s helping people in a better way,” Hulterstrom said.

He said, during the recent holiday season, he was impressed with the numerous stories of sponsors that would drop presents off to their families and they would be invited in, some being offered homemade cookies or treats or given thank-you letters and cards.

Hulterstom said there are always some last-minute holes to fill and that sponsors are always there and come through by Christmas Eve.

“I don’t think a year goes by that I’m not touched by stories I have seen and heard,” Hulterstrom said. “There are amazing people on both sides of this. I was touched watching volunteers with applicants and the processing and the long-term connections being made.”

Hulterstrom said the volunteers, sponsors and families and the stories, “go beyond just feel-good.” He said the United Way Sub for Santa program received numerous cards and letters of thanks for helping make not only the holidays but every day brighter for children and their family.

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