Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo
In 1963, Ben E. Lewis and Wilson Sorenson founded a nonprofit organization called the United Fund to help residents of Utah County—then a population of just over 100,000.
With over 600,000 residents in the valley, the United Way of Utah County, as it is known today, still works to serve the county’s residents.
Within a year, Lewis, a vice president at Brigham Young University, partnered with the United Fund to enable employees to give on the job. According to the nonprofit’s history, BYU is the United Way of Utah County’s largest donor. Sorenson was the president of Central Utah Vocational Schools, which eventually became Utah Valley University. They also became sponsors.
“These innovative leaders were like, ‘How can we do good,'” said Jeanette Bennett, founder of Utah Valley Magazine and UWUC board chair-elect, during an anniversary celebration Wednesday. “It was revolutionary at the time to have donations in the workplace.”
Bill Hulterstrom, President and CEO of the United Way of Utah County since 1985, called Sorenson and Lewis “Utah County’s growth planners.”
Courtesy of Riana Bruce Goodsky
Over the decades, United Way has focused on specific issues facing Utah County, including transportation in the 1970s, domestic violence in the 1980s, health care in the 1990s, literacy in the 2000s, and youth resilience in the 2010s years
With a view to the next 60 years, the most frequently used word is growth.
“As we look to our future, growth dominates our discussions, growth dominates every discussion,” Hulterstrom said. “We know the growth will continue.”
He noted that Utah County will have a population of about 1.5 million by 2060 and will remain young. The youngest town in the valley is Eagle Mountain with an average age of residents of 19 years. Hulterstrom said that number and the median age in other cities in the county have changed little over the past decade, while other places, like Salt Lake City, are aging.
“We’re going to stay young in Utah County and that’s changing the way we think about the future,” Hulterstrom said.
Isaac Hale, Daily Herald file photo
Hulterstrom also discussed a lack of connections between individuals, especially following societal changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We lost touch. Schools and students suffered. Young people are more likely to suffer from depression. They’ve lost touch with the neighborhood,” he said.
The youth have been hurt the most by this lost communication, Hulterstrom found using the data in the recently completed Community Needs Assessment.
“We took a step back,” said Hulterstrom. “Education, mental health and connectivity have all struggled over the past three years.”
Hulterstrom reached out to United Way business stakeholders to ask them what they thought should be done to regain what was lost.
Courtesy of BYU
“We have to be visionary. We do not plan for today, but for what is yet to come. We need the vision and then the courage to do what needs to be done,” said former Gov. Gary Herbert, a longtime Orem resident.
Herbert also expressed his appreciation for the United Way of Utah County by raising the bar and enabling people to serve.
“We need more compassion and more concern,” said Erica Coleman, a local mother and volunteer. “I have to listen to the kids. We must live united.”
Another goal for residents is to create time in their schedules for service.
Before closing the celebration, Hulterstrom looked around the room and said the only word that came to mind was gratitude. Gratitude for the hours of service, the donations, and the ways they have made the United Way better.
Daily Herald file photo
“Thank you for making an impact and laying a foundation for the future,” Hulterstrom said through tears of appreciation for those who gave time and money to serve the community.
There will be other 60th anniversary events throughout 2023, culminating with another grand celebration in October. In the meantime, Hulterstrom hopes that individuals, groups and businesses will come together and plan for the future – for the children.