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United Way: Building community from the inside out

August 19, 2018
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Participants in the South Franklin Community Center choir perform at their 2018 summer recital.

When the community comes together, great things happen.

I’ve seen this truth exhibited over and over in Utah County. One of my favorite examples of how collaboration can create change is the South Franklin Community Center. Since its beginning in 2013, this center has exemplified what strong partnerships can to do to support our community.

The very existence of the South Franklin Community Center is a testament to the power that comes from partnership. In order to build the center, several organizations donated time, resources and expertise. The Boulders Apartments donated the land. Provo city allocated Community Development Block Grant funds for construction. Habitat for Humanity oversaw construction using their volunteers and expertise. And United Way of Utah County provided staff management to make sure the center functions smoothly. Since the new center opened, other great community partners, like Utah Valley University, Centro Hispano, Teens Act, Mountainland Head Start, Food Sense and others, have supported and organized amazing programs for neighbors to learn and grow together.

One of the unique features about these partnerships is that the focus of each of them is on the strengths of the neighborhood. Instead of focusing on the problems in the community, the programs at South Franklin emphasize and draw on local strengths and talents. For example, all of the programs at the center are run by volunteer groups.

Over the past few years, more and more of these volunteer groups are made up of parents who live in the neighborhood. Each week, parents come to the center for Zumba and craft classes run by their own neighbors. Thanks to these programs, families in the area are able to build stronger relationships with each other and the community at large.

These relationships are also strengthened through programs like tutoring, math and reading clubs, music and dance lessons and summer day camps for children. Recently, the community center finished two sessions of Camp Neon, a healthy and educational summer camp program. Participants this year visited the Loveland Living Planet Aquarium, learned about healthy nutrition and participated in active play activities. Thanks to the volunteers who organized and ran this camp, local children were able to keep learning and stay healthy during the summer break.

While most of the programs at the community center are designed for children, they also support families. A great example of this is the play group held weekly at the community center. Parents bring their young children each week, and as the children participate in educational activities, the parents get to know each other and strengthen friendships among neighbors.

The great successes of the South Franklin Community Center have come from the hundreds of dedicated volunteers, donors and participants. Their generosity and passion for strengthening the community is truly inspiring, and I want to thank each of them for their support.

As I think about the South Franklin Community Center, I’m reminded that true community is built from the inside out. Strong neighborhoods only come about when neighbors are engaged and are invested in creating community together. When that happens—and when we focus on the strengths of our community—our potential for growth is almost unlimited.

So, why not take some time this week to work on building your own neighborhood from the inside out? Doing so will help strengthen our community for years to come.

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