Provo volunteers participate in ‘MyHometown’ initiative to improve the community

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Volunteers in Provo’s South Freedom neighborhood are in the process of launching “MyHometown,” an initiative to provide community resources and improvement projects. The initiative focuses on combined efforts from volunteers and residents to build the community. (Photo courtesy of Greg Baum)

Volunteers in Provo’s South Freedom neighborhood are in the process of launching MyHometown, an initiative created to provide community resources and improvement projects to Provo residents.

The initiative, a pilot program originally introduced two and a half years ago in West Valley City, Utah, focuses on combined efforts from volunteers and residents to build the community.

Volunteers teach life skills classes, tutor students, provide monthly service projects and more.

South Freedom Project Director Alan Wilkins said the overarching goal of MyHometown is to improve communities economically, socially and emotionally.

“This is an effort to help people help each other,” Wilkins said. “We want to build neighborhoods that feel loving, feel connected and feel responsible for each other.”

Wilkins said they are creating focus groups and distributing surveys to residents to better understand the needs and desires of the community. With the information they gather, they will organize events and resources to address those needs.

Provo’s South Freedom neighborhood will open its Community Resource Center on June 18. The center will house English classes, basic computer skills classes, financial wellness trainings and more.

Wilkins said that although many of the volunteers are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the initiative is meant to bring together individuals of all faiths and backgrounds.

“It’s for everyone to serve each other,” Wilkins said.

Provo’s Pioneer Park neighborhood launched their MyHometown efforts several months ago.

Pioneer Park Associate Director Al Thomson said his favorite aspect of the initiative is seeing how happy the people they work with are.

“They’re just grateful,” Thomson said. “They come back for friendships and because they feel loved.”

Thomson said their Community Resource Center provides multiple tutoring sessions and classes to help the community, including a computer skills class.

Students who choose to attend are given a laptop that they can take home to do homework and those who consistently attend classes for a year will be given the laptop at the end of the course.

“All of the computers were given to us by a donor,” Thomson said. “People have been so generous.”

Volunteers in Provo’s South Freedom neighborhood are in the process of launching “MyHometown,” an initiative to provide community resources and improvement projects. The initiative focuses on combined efforts from volunteers and residents to build the community. (Photo courtesy of Greg Baum)

Pioneer Park Director Greg Baum said all of their efforts have focused on providing education, strengthening friendships and improving homes and properties.

“Our first Day of Service focused on removing garbage in the neighborhood,” Baum said. “There is another one on June 11 where we will be painting some homes in the community.”

Baum said they discuss which residents are most in need of service before planning out the projects.

“We look and see which projects need to be done for someone who can’t do it themselves,” Baum said. “Maybe it’s a widow who, for whatever reason, is unable to do it. From there we assess their needs and plan how to help them.”

Baum also said that for those who are able, all recipients of service must participate in the project.

“We consult them on what needs to be done and what they are able to pay for themselves,” Baum said. “If they are physically able, they have to participate in the actual service as well.”

Baum said they also plan and execute events to help residents interact and get to know one another. When they launched the initiative in the Pioneer Park neighborhood, they held a block party for community members to officially open their Community Resource Center.

“Our opening event had 910 people in attendance,” Baum said. “It was magnificent.”

Baum said the longevity of MyHometown is expected to be up to 10 years.

“There’s no official end date on MyHometown,” Baum said. “It’s magical.”

More information about MyHometown can be found on Provo’s South Freedom neighborhood website.

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