Community oasis in a busy city

Story and photos by LEAH BEEHLER

The Wasatch Community Gardens prove that healthy living, eating, and growing in a city is not impossible.

A wide view from the new wood deck behind the walkway to the plant beds. The many beds provide the space for diverse seeds and plants.

“You don’t need to speak the same language as someone else, you don’t need to look the same or have the same background to be able to get your hands in the dirt and create something together,” said Georgina Griffith-Yates, the current executive director. Located at 600 E. 800 South in the central hub of Salt Lake City, the living oasis is focused on bringing the community together and growing local food, while also striving to educate.

The mission of the Gardens is to empower people to grow and eat healthy, organic, local food.

The Community Garden Program, Community Education Program, Youth and School Program, and the Job Training Program are the ways in which the Gardens accomplish that mission.

According to its website, the Community Garden Program is a way for the people in the community to “come and gain hands-on skills through [the] series of organic gardening workshops.” There are a total of 16 gardens throughout the county to apply what you learn during the workshops.

The Community Education Program targets not only real-life experience but also shares real knowledge of the food and how to grow it with the members of the community. It additionally focuses on hosting workshops and events that show people how to translate what they learn during classes to their home and how to make use of what they grow. “It is not just a get together — there is a lot of information provided to you and resources,” said Kerrie Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.

After the informative sessions and workshops, the Gardens provide many recipes to try yourself, how to perform a soil analysis with ingredients you have at home, and natural remedies that can help with colds and sickness.

“Another thing they offer is how to properly compost and get rid of pests naturally and organically,” Toner said.

Events and workshops are beneficial to the community because they are a chance to bring people together and build relationships. “Having in-person connection points, there is no substitute for that,” said Amber Nichols in a phone interview. Nichols is the outreach and volunteer director. Volunteering is a big part of the Wasatch Community Gardens and how it includes the community. If you are interested in volunteering, you can sign up by filling out the online form.

The goal for volunteers is to learn while also making sure they have fun. They are able to be there for a couple hours and offer services while learning about the plants, seeds, and soil.

Volunteers are able to plant seeds that will grow and later be available for purchase at the plant sale. They also work to beautify the gardens and harvest fruit.

Plants growing and becoming accustomed to the soil at Wasatch Community Gardens on 800 South.

The Youth and School Program is designed to teach kids about food and where food comes from. According to its website, “kids ages 4-12, are invited to learn in the [the] productive school garden program.”

Kids are encouraged to see that food is more than fast food. They have the power to take a small seed and grow something that is healthy and safe.

The Job Training Program is available to help women who are experiencing homelessness be reintegrated into a job setting and be hired once the program is over.

The program is a one-year-long process and is very beneficial for the participants and their futures. As well as helping the women get jobs, the Gardens also has a free pick zone for the community.

The free pick zone provides a source of clean fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries and tomatoes, to people passing by and those who can’t afford organic produce from the grocery store, and kids in the community who are learning what they like.

The tomato easement at Wasatch Community Gardens. The gardens and plots are essential for food growth.

On the Gardens campus is a fully functioning kitchen that is used to cook meals and prepare food for the guests and volunteers. The food used and eaten is all grown at the campus.

Community outreach and happiness is a big importance for the Gardens. “They want to work with the community and are very community driven,” said Toner, a member of the community and volunteer.

There are many cultures and people in a large city. The gardens focus on the diverse histories of people, food, and agriculture. They do this by offering a different variety of plants and different land plots to adhere to history and culture.

The Wasatch Community Gardens is a great green, open space in a city and is a huge learning outlet. It is also a large benefit to the community by bringing them together, getting them out of the house, meeting new people, and learning new things that they can implement in their own homes and at-home gardens.

UDOT’s plans for transit in Little Cottonwood will affect climbing along with traffic

Story and photos by JACOB FREEMAN

If you’ve driven in Little Cottonwood Canyon in the past few years, the problems it faces are hard to miss. The narrow road creates traffic backups that can stretch far out of the mouth of the canyon in winter months, when snowy conditions compound its problems. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of annual visitors, and it’s clear to see why people are calling for an update to transportation up and down Little Cottonwood.

A gondola would transport passengers here from the mouth of the Little Cottonwood Canyon.

The Utah Department of Transportation has two updates in mind. One is an added shoulder for busses to travel on. The other is a gondola stretching from the mouth of the canyon to the ski resorts Alta and Snowbird.

Both proposed solutions aim to improve traffic flow in Little Cottonwood, near Salt Lake City. But both of UDOT’s proposals will also have an irreversible impact on rock climbing in the canyon, and that has activists and community members worried.

“That is potentially the biggest threat to loss of climbing resources and climbing access that we’ve seen on the Wasatch Front in a couple decades,” David Carter said in an interview over Zoom. Carter works on the board of directors for the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, an advocacy group that aims to protect access to rock climbing in the Wasatch mountain range. He also serves as the chair of the SLCA’s policy and conservation committee.

Carter said the potential road widening and gondola construction come with their own unique impacts to climbing in the canyon. 

“Widening of the road is certainly the greatest of potential impact,” Carter said. “There we’re looking at dozens of boulders that could potentially be destroyed, and hundreds of bouldering problems.”

Climbers in Little Cottonwood park and climb on boulders less than 15 feet from the road.

Destruction of boulders isn’t the only impact that SLCA is worried about. Carter said that changes to the overall climbing experience will inevitably be a pitfall of the proposals. 

“It basically impacts any climbing that happens in that main canyon corridor, because if you’re climbing at the Gate Buttress you’re going to look over and be level with gondolas running by,” Carter said. Gate Buttress is one of the most popular rock climbing walls in Little Cottonwood.

However, destruction of climbing resources remains Carter’s main concern. “The roadway widening — it’s hard to see how that would not result in permanent loss of iconic, world-class bouldering.”

These are concerns that UDOT has heard from SLCA on numerous occasions, said Josh Van Jura, project manager at UDOT.

“They’re obviously very concerned with boulders being removed, as well as the viewshed,” Van Jura said in a phone interview. Viewshed refers to an impact on scenery by structures or pollution.

Van Jura explained that UDOT plans to eliminate roadside parking in Little Cottonwood, a move that aims to address safety concerns created by people walking up and down the busy, narrow street. This would also help to prevent road erosion and environmental strain caused by “spider trails,” paths created by many people walking to a similar destination from different starting points, Van Jura said. To make up for lost parking, UDOT plans to build four new parking areas, which he said would keep the total number of parking spots about the same.

Carter disagrees that the number of spaces is all that matters. He said SLCA understands the safety concerns created by roadside parking in the canyon, but these changes to parking will inevitably lead to a loss of access to climbing resources.

“We’ve been working in good faith to help improve the safety of the situation and we feel like the needs of climbers and other dispersed recreators haven’t been taken into account,” Carter said.

UDOT created an environmental impact statement, or EIS, to analyze the potential effects of the proposed projects. These projects have been narrowed down to an added shoulder lane or gondola. However, “a no-action alternative is always considered as an alternative,” Van Jura said. UDOT also collected public comments about the impact statement in order to make sure its analysis was complete.

“One of the preferred alternatives comes from the last comment summary,” John Gleason said in a phone interview. He is the public information officer at UDOT. “We have received over 13,000 comments on the EIS. We will undoubtedly have a better EIS because of it.”

The goal of obtaining these comments was to make sure UDOT had conducted a complete analysis. “The goal is not a vote,” Van Jura said about the public comment period.

SLCA has submitted its own public comments to UDOT, in conjunction with its meetings with UDOT officials. While SLCA agrees that something has to be done to mitigate traffic in Little Cottonwood, Carter says UDOT’s two preferred alternatives are going too far, when cheaper and less impactful alternatives have yet to be explored.

“Our No. 1 message is, let’s not start with very costly, very impactful, permanent infrastructure changes. It’s irreversible, it’s irresponsible from a policy perspective,” Carter said.

Carter said SLCA is in favor of more flexible, less impactful traffic mitigation solutions, such as increased busses and tolling.

“Why not try those measures to see if you can get that many folks off the road before we go build a gondola or widen the road,” Carter said.

Utah Humanities aims to bridge political polarization across the state

Story by ALEJANDRO LUCERO

A month before the 2020 election, roughly 8 in 10 registered voters on both sides of the aisle said their differences with the other side were about core American values such as the economy, racial justice and climate change, according to a 2020 study done by the Pew Research Center.

“I feel like we sort of lost that ability to have a conversation without feeling like we have to convince each other of our side,” Caitlin McDonald said in a Zoom call.

Utah Humanities, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit, created the Community Conversations as a space for respectful dialogue. But is it enough to help alleviate the political polarization plaguing Utahns across the state? McDonald, the program manager in charge of the Conversations, knows that bridging the gap is not a painless task for participants.

“It’s not an easy thing. It’s not all puppies and rainbows. It’s not all hugging each other. It’s hard, and it’s emotional, and we’ve had people cry,” McDonald said.

Participants attend a Community Conversation in person pre-pandemic. Utah Humanities, a Salt Lake City nonprofit, has been hosting hard and uncomfortable conversations about relevant and polarizing topics to create meaningful dialogue in the Salt Lake Valley. Photo provided by Utah Humanities.

Utah Humanities has been hosting hard and uncomfortable conversations about relevant and polarizing topics such as racial justice, climate change and civic participation since its inception in 2015. Pre-pandemic, these conversations were held in person. Currently they reside within the virtual walls of Zoom. Regardless of the meeting space, McDonald said she believes the process of creating meaningful and productive dialogue is more successful than regular town halls or other forums where people come ready to argue and yell at one another.

Part of the Utah Humanities’ success can be attributed to its Conversation Agreements that serve as a code of conduct for these monthly meetings. The agreements outline expectations for how the conversations will be held and how participants are expected to conduct themselves. The guidelines include “respecting all participants, … thoughtfully considering perspectives which are contrary to their own and behaving courteously should a disagreement and/or non-closure occur.”

McDonald said all participants must sign the agreement before any dialogue can begin. This weeds out anyone who is looking to come with pitchforks in hand.

The Conversation Agreements are meant to serve as a guideline that all participants must agree to before attending a Conversation. The Agreements help weed out agitators and trolls looking for an argument, not constructive dialogue. Photo provided by Utah Humanities.

“Because as we’ve seen, people’s rules for behavior seem to have changed recently. What’s acceptable in public and what’s acceptable in how we treat each other? I’ve seen it change in the past few years,” McDonald said.

She also said that weeding out the agitators who are looking to throw gasoline onto the political fire has proven to be beneficial, as they have never kicked out a participant. The agreement also helps alleviate some concerns of first-time participants, while also providing them with a space to be vulnerable and listen openly to perspectives that they might disagree with.

“These conversations just give them a chance to come somewhere where you don’t have to come with your guard up,” McDonald said. “You can come knowing that you’re in a space where you can express yourself, but also hear somebody else express themselves without fear of being yelled at.”

One participant is openly looking for this challenge of ideas and values. Steven Olsen is a senior history curator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He said he embraces aspects of the humanities such as diverse thinking and the civil interchange of sharing ideas. Olsen said he is especially interested in the perspectives that differ from those around him. 

“I really am interested in sharing that perspective with others in a kind of an academic setting or from an academic perspective, but also gaining other insights that I might not get from my own tribe, as it were,” Olsen said in a Zoom interview.

It might seem as if Olsen has found his happy place within the virtual walls of the Zoom Conversations, but the problem is, he has had a hard time garnering a new perspective from these sessions.

“Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the kind of diversity of perspectives that I had kind of hoped [for] going forward, I would say it’s mostly centered left of center,” Olsen said.

The lack of contrasting opinions interests Kevin Coe, a professor with an emphasis in political communication at the University of Utah. But he believes the problem is bigger than a conversation.

“It’s useful to think in terms of some of those interpersonal solutions [Community Conversations] as small-scale acts of goodness, that are useful. They won’t ultimately be enough to solve the problem, right? Because the problem is structural,” Coe said in a Zoom interview.

The structural problem Coe is referring to involves the amount of information and misinformation that can be found on social media, and how that changing information environment is shaped and influenced by political structures and those in power. Social media and news outlets could be to blame due to the number of opinions that are now in the marketplace of ideas. But Coe said he thinks the real problem lies within the curators who are controlling the release of questionable content being cultivated for public consumption.

“The deeper problem is that people are toxic because people are creating that information environment, and particularly people in power, who often have an incentive to put out misinformation, for example,” Coe said.

Power isn’t the only incentive to deceive the public.

“To get that misinformation to circulate and that might be a monetary incentive as a way for them to just increase their own personal wealth, say, unscrupulous journalists … an unscrupulous participant in the media environment who benefits financially from having their message, which … they know is factually inaccurate, circulate widely, because it builds attention for them,” Coe said.  

This could be applied as well to politicians who use misinformation or inflammatory remarks to influence their following and maintain power. Coe also said it would take a broader reform of the political and information system to reach the overarching goal that those interpersonal acts of communication like the Conversations are seeking.

It might seem like the deck has been stacked against the participants of the Conversations like Steven Olsen, who look through the lens of the humanities to navigate these uncomfortable conversations and polarizing topics. But there is consensus and hope among those who attend, that the Conversations will continue to provide participants with the opportunity to not see a political enemy on the other side of the aisle, but a vulnerable person who also wants what is best for the country.

“Those conversations can rise above the particulars of our contention, you know, the differences of our points of view,” Olsen said. “To see the human underpinnings of even the necessity of having differences of opinion, in other words, it’s not about who’s right and who’s wrong, but it’s about the meaning of the truth that we’re seeking from the conversation.”

The Utah Humanities building, located at 202 300 N. in Salt Lake City, was once the home of the Community Conversations. The Conversations are currently taking place on Zoom and have allowed people from across the state and nation to participate. Photo provided by Utah Humanities.

How the Know Your Neighbor program helps refugees and volunteers in SLC

Story by KRISTINE WELLER

When refugees arrive in the U.S. they are matched with one of nine nonprofit organizations. There are two such organizations in Utah, the International Rescue Committee and Catholic Community Services. The problem is, however, these organizations only help refugees for their first two months in the U.S. and these asylum seekers often need sustained assistance. 

This is why Utah has the Know Your Neighbor program. The Know Your Neighbor program recruits volunteers to fulfill needs and create connections between refugees and community members. 

Megan McLaws is the program’s volunteer coordinator. She matches volunteers with newcomers who require assistance. The main categories volunteers assist with are tutoring and mentorship, programs and classes, Refugee Community Based Organizations (RCBOs), and the goat farm which is a special category of RCBO.  

McLaws said that when the pandemic started, the program had an influx of volunteers, more than they had a need for. The program wasn’t matching people unless it was virtually, which made it difficult to give every volunteer an opportunity. However, now that people are going back to work, they don’t have as much time to volunteer. 

“We’re having the opposite problem where we have a lot of opportunities, and we have a lot of volunteers, but they are getting back to work and have busy schedules again,” McLaws said. 

Lexie Hanks is one of those volunteers who has a busy schedule but fits different volunteer opportunities into her day-to-day life. She said it’s best to fit opportunities in where you can, even if it’s just for an hour or two a week, since there is no shortage of needs for the refugees. 

“Volunteering can be tiring work, but it’s worth it,” Hanks said. 

Lexie Hanks and her four children get up early to help out at the goat farm. Photo courtesy of Lexie Hanks.

One of the volunteer opportunities that Hanks takes advantage of is the goat farm. The goat farm is an RCBO within the program, but it is unique because it relies heavily on volunteer support. Hanks said when volunteers go to the farm, they usually feed and water the goats as well as do health checks. However, Hanks has also vaccinated the herd and re-tagged them.

The farm is run by Somali Bantu, Burundi and Bajuni communities right outside Salt Lake City. Hanks explained that this farm is very important in preserving and passing on cultural practices related to goat farming. 

“Through helping and volunteering in that way, it gives refugees a piece of their home,” Hanks said. 

Hanks started working with the Know Your Neighbor program during the pandemic, in the summer of 2020, so for her first volunteer opportunity she was paired with a Burundi family. She helped their kids with homework virtually. 

The children in this family were in the same grades as two of Hanks’ own children, one in kindergarten and the other in third grade. Hanks’ kids came to like the children across the screen and on Fridays when she was helping them with virtual learning, she said they would often ask, “are our friends on?”

Three of Lexie Hanks’ children help feed the goats at the goat farm. Photo courtesy of Lexie Hanks.

Hanks would then tell her boys that they would have to wait until the other kids are done with their learning before they can say hello. 

Virtual learning, however, wasn’t easy. Hanks said the kids would often hold up their homework to the camera, and she would have to quickly write information down so she could help them. The language barrier also made things more difficult. 

“Kind eyes meeting kind eyes,” Hanks said, was basically the only communication she had with the parents. This is because they had recently arrived in the U.S. and hadn’t learned much English. 

Kim Langton, another volunteer, has more experience with helping refugees learn English and teaching in general. Langton has a degree in education and has been teaching and working with children since 1975. 

In fact, after retiring, Langton said he lost his fulfillment. He said he missed helping children and that’s why he began volunteering. 

Langton, more specifically, volunteers for the Umoja Generation. The Umoja Generation is an RCBO under the Know Your Neighbor program. Langton is also on the board of this RCBO and has been volunteering there for nearly three years.

Part of what Langton does is help refugee children learn conversational English. English learning is important, he said, because if students don’t understand English they won’t do well in other subjects. 

Further, Langton said it’s critical for refugee students to do something that interests them when learning English, and that they do it with others in the Utah community. It’s an easier and more fun way to learn, plus they can make new friends. 

That’s why Langton first finds something that the kids are interested in and bases a lesson around an activity. He said a lot of kids like soccer, so one of his lessons involved writing up English words that are related to the sport, talking about each word, using the words in a sentence and going out and playing some soccer.  

Langton’s grandkids also love soccer. He described them as “soccer fanatics” since they have been in competitive leagues and traveled in Utah from St. George to Ogden for tournaments and games. 

Refugees at a sewing class taught at the Utah Refugee Center. Photo courtesy of Megan McLaws.

Since Langton knew his grandkids loved soccer, he invited them to the English lesson based around it. He said his grandchildren didn’t expect the refugees to be as skilled as they are, because of their background with the sport, but they were humbled.

“They said, ‘Wow, we didn’t know they were gonna be so good. Those kids are fantastic.’ And they were, so it was a good way to start teaching them English around something they’re intrinsically interested in,” Langton said in a Zoom interview. 

Langton also is a mentor for a refugee named Didier. Didier and Langton have been working together for about a year. Langton helps with anything he needs, including homework, finding scholarships and getting his food handler’s permit. 

They communicate virtually over Zoom and text since Didier lives in West Jordan and Langton lives in Glenwood, a three-hour distance. Despite the distance, however, Langton said his mentee feels like one of his grandkids. He said they are close, and that he’s learned so much from their relationship as well.

Langton said he has learned a lot about Didier’s culture. Didier is from the Congo and Langton has heard his family play their traditional music. Langton said he also was able to better understand the refugee experience after talking about it with Didier when helping him apply to a college scholarship.

“I think he’s taught me a lot more than I’ve taught him,” Langton said. 

This is one of the main goals for the Know Your Neighbor program, for refugees to make connections with local community members. Further, Langton explained that it’s not just the volunteers who should become friends with the refugees. 

He said it’s the responsibility of everyone to make these new arrivals feel welcome and appreciated, adding that refugees are deserving of all kinds of love.

“They’re wonderful students, wonderful people,” Langton said, “hearts as big as any I’ve ever known.”

The impact of COVID-19 on animal shelters in Salt Lake County

Story by SORINA TRAUNTVEIN

“When push comes to shove, if there’s a major emergency, the community is willing to step up, especially here in Salt Lake,” Guinnevere Shuster said.

But what do you do with homeless animals in a pandemic?

Shuster is the associate director of marketing and communications at the Utah Humane Society located at 4242 S. 300 West in Murray, Utah. In an interview over Zoom, she described its experience during the pandemic.

“We put a call out for foster families to just come take all of our animals, and we had a great response to that,” Shuster said. “We were able to place many of our animals into foster homes.”

According to Shelter Animal Counts, there was a downtrend of adoptions in Utah during March and April 2020, followed by a large spike during the subsequent months. Shuster was able to explain this.

After fostering, many families “did end up keeping the dogs or the cats and a big part of that was, you know, it gave them an opportunity to kind of foster to adopt,” Shuster said. “They got to know the animal.”

Temma Martin, the public relations specialist at Best Friends Animal Society Utah, located at 2005 S. 1100 East in Salt Lake City, shared its experience placing animals in foster homes as well.

“In 2020, through Dec. 24, nearly 5,000 animals were placed in foster homes, and 3,050 were adopted, compared to 2,740 foster placements and 2,514 adoptions in 2019,” Martin said in an email interview.

There was not a large amount of surrenders during the pandemic, which may come as a surprise. This was in part due to the Utah Humane Society’s Pet Retention Program and Best Friends Animal Society Utah’s donations.

The outdoor clinic check-in at the Utah Humane Society in Murray, Utah. Photo by Sorina Trauntvein.

The Utah Humane Society asked those considering surrender to consider other options. Its program offered “resources to keep the pet, whether that be food or some basic vet care,” Shuster explained.

Both the Utah Humane Society and Best Friends Animal Society Utah offer adoption clinics, spay and neuter and a pet food pantry. These programs promote pet retention and helped Salt Lake County citizens during the pandemic.

Best Friends Animal Society Utah requested donations during March 2020 in order to keep up with the high demand for animal necessities.

“We receive a lot of our animals through transfer programs from other organizations. Some of them are local, some of them are in rural parts of Utah. And then we also receive animals from states that are just overburdened with their homeless pet population problem,” Shuster said.

Transfers from other shelters had been temporarily suspended during part of 2020, which meant “it was a little tough for some people to find, you know, the animals they wanted to adopt during the pandemic,” Shuster said.

Abby Buttars with their cat, Henry; he loves cuddling and reminding people to wear their masks. Photo courtesy of Abby Buttars.

Abby Buttars adopted their cat, Henry, from the Utah Humane Society in June 2020. The process had changed, but shelters were still doing everything in their power to put the right pets with the right people.

“I decided to just look on the humane society website and I saw his picture and had to have him,” Buttars said in an interview over Instagram. “So they had me do a phone interview to kinda see if I would be a responsible owner, and then they had me do a Zoom with him and his foster family. Then they set me up with a time for me to come pick him up!”

Appointment-based adoptions were an early change after March 2020, and they’re still in effect now. If you’re interested in adoption, you can make an appointment for Best Friends Animal Society Utah here or Utah Humane Society here.

“Making appointments for certain things has really worked out for the better for our staff and the flow of the animals as they come in through our shelter,” Shuster said.

During quarantine, many people adopted pets because they were home more often and needed to combat loneliness.

The check-in table at the Utah Humane Society, requesting visitors to wear a mask and sanitize their hands before interacting with any animals. Photo by Sorina Trauntvein.

“He definitely changed my life for the better. He’s helped me feel less alone during the pandemic,” Buttars said.

Adoption and fostering went somewhat smoothly during the pandemic, but it was not shelters’ only concerns.

The majority of publicly available purchases were donated to the shelters, such as food, bowls and beds. Necessary items for the clinics were in short supply, such as personal protective equipment (PPE), medication and pet-specialized first aid supplies.

“Especially we saw this in our clinic, where PPE, and that kind of stuff was all going to the hospitals, making sure that our hospitals had enough to take care of their human population, which is just as important,” Shuster said. “So we did have to slow some of our services that we offer to the community, which in our clinic is spay and neuter and vaccinations.”

Those services are running again now, but the supply chain shortage was difficult at the beginning. Utah Humane Society expects that to continue in the foreseeable future.

“There’s also things that we don’t receive as donations, like drugs that we use in our clinic. And we’ve seen supply shortages on those too, in some of these drugs. While there’s other options that we can use, there’s a big cost difference between some of them,” Shuster explained.

As coronavirus continues to wind down, there are still needs that can be filled by those living in Salt Lake County.

“Individuals can help by choosing to adopt pets from shelters or rescue groups,” said Martin, with Best Friends Animal Society Utah. “Other important ways to help are by fostering, choosing to spay/neuter pets, donating, volunteering and spreading the word about animal welfare needs.

Dreamscapes is the first sustainable art exhibition in Salt Lake City

Story and images by LORNA GAGE

The “Moonman” by Jake Butjier guards the entrance of the exhibit and hints at a larger story created by RJ Walker and Fish Burton.

Immersive art has been sweeping the nation, as illustrated by the 2021 award-winning spaces Area 15 in Las Vegas and Prismajic in Denver. Within Salt Lake City, Dreamscapes serves as no better example.

Under the Utah Arts Alliance (UAA), Dreamscapes is Utah’s first permanent environmentally sustainable art exhibition.

After moving locations and rebuilding, Dreamscapes reopened its doors on Feb. 6, 2021, at the Gateway, 111 S. Rio Grande St. It is an immersive art attraction that utilizes a blend of physical and digital art, creating a unique experience for the observer as they wander through the labyrinth.

Suzanne Raia, the manager of Dreamscapes, described the exhibition as an opportunity for artists who were used to working in two-dimensional mediums to pull their work off the canvas. She said the goal was to create something that people could walk through, experience, and transport themselves in.

Greg Smith kisses the fish in the “Sunken Temple of Atlantis” by Ashley Brown (lead artist), Chelsea Harbert, Darren Gonzol, Tara Mlyenek, and Natalie Bird.

As visitors weave through the network of curiosities, mushrooms and reimagined woodland creatures, they are transported to the ultimate dreamland.

“I am of the mentality that everyone is an artist,” Raia said. “We all have opportunities to create new experiences, from the clothes we put on our back, to the words that come out of our mouth.”

Raia was connected to Dreamscapes through UAA. She said UAA is a nonprofit arts organization that has been around for 15 years. Its mission is to foster the arts in all forms to create an aware, empowered and connected community.

Dreamscapes was initially supposed to be a three-month pop-up in 2017. Raia jokingly said that it was constructed out of cardboard, hopes and dreams. But she said the installation was such a great model and attracted so many people to the Gateway, that Dreamscapes was able to establish a permanent presence and rebuild in 2021.  

Raia said while developing the concept of Dreamscapes, UAA reached out to its network. One of its biggest donors is the Salt Palace Convention Center. Its green initiative coordinator, Nick Zaccheo, saw the considerable waste generated by numerous temporary arts installations. Raia explained that Zaccheo collaborated with the UAA to create a green art exhibit.

Raia said this exhibition has met its sustainability goals by creating a niche way in which it creates art; it accepts as many donations and usable materials as possible.

Not only that, but Raia said the space is able to utilize projection mapping and digital art to make physical pieces come alive. This is a process in which multiple projectors reflect on a surface to enhance an art experience using light and movement over previously static objects.

Lorna Gage investigates a flower to see “Fairy Houses” by Derek Green.

As Ashley Brown, an assistant manager and creative lead at Dreamscapes, watched patrons filter in and out of the exhibit, she said, “I hope they see the way we take everyday items and turn them into something new. It doesn’t cost a million dollars to make cool art.”

Since 2017, Dreamscapes has been dedicated to diverting material away from the landfill for the purpose of creating new installations. In that time, it has helped the Salt Palace Convention Center divert over 50,000 pounds of event materials from going to a landfill.

It has also been able to reduce its carbon footprint by almost 180,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — which is equivalent to 200,000 car miles coming off Salt Lake City roads.

“We’re trying to save the world through art,” Brown said. “That’s really important to us. Hopefully they get that feeling when they’re leaving.”

While being the first environmentally sustainable art exhibition in Utah, Dreamscapes is constantly changing and creating new, interactive experiences for the observer. Bo Dean, a builder at Dreamscapes and member of UAA, said, “We have an ongoing joke that the space is never really finished.”

Dean added that in the process of reusing and upcycling materials, it’s important to free up areas in the exhibit for new artists.

A couch waits for guests in the “Flower Room,” decorated by Katia Racine (lead artist), Andrea Racine, Cami Chatterton, and Kezia Nakagawa.

This wouldn’t be possible without volunteers.

Kaycee Lane is the volunteer coordinator at Dreamscapes. Anyone can get involved through the Dreamscapes website.

Raia said many of the artists started out as volunteers and have created a collaborative atmosphere that inspires creativity.

Furthermore, volunteering leads to other opportunities, connections, and experiences. Raia said Dreamscapes volunteers get the unique opportunity to see and practice the ins and outs of production. This includes stage managing, working with performers, stocking greenrooms, painting, and working with an extensive range of materials. 

Volunteers were especially important in November, when people helped pack Dreamscapes to rebuild in a new location in 2022.

Dreamscapes began the process of packing on Nov. 14. Dreamscapes will be moving to an undecided location in 2022 and still needs help unpacking, reimagining and rebuilding the installation after the new year.

Brown, the assistant manager, said the future of Dreamscapes is to reconstruct the installation in a space that allows it to incorporate more immersive elements, to create a bigger network of artists and to work in tandem with the community. Brown invites the public to discover the secrets of the labyrinth as either a patron or as a volunteer. She said, “It’s a running joke that at the center of the dream universe is a candy covered core.”

Salt Lake City is determined to take charge of curbing homelessness: Who is putting in the work?

Story and photos by PAIGE NELSON

As the weather warms up, tents are beginning to line the downtown streets of Salt Lake City.

Tents lining streets, garbage in flower beds, needles scattered across public parks. This is the picture that is painted in most individuals’ minds when thinking about homeless people. 

Stripping down any perception of a human living in these conditions, all the public sees is unshaven men sleeping on sidewalks and drug addicts pushing stolen shopping carts full of personal belongings. 

While this stigma surrounds low income Utahns, there is work happening behind the scenes actively trying to help individuals get off the streets and back into the community. 

Kat Kahn, director of development at The Road Home, has had ample experience helping the homeless population of Salt Lake City. 

“Our No. one goal is to move people out of emergency shelter and into housing as quick as possible,” Kahn said in a Zoom interview. “The majority of the people we serve stay under six months.”

The Road Home is one of the oldest homeless centers in Salt Lake City, established in 1923. It has grown to having three emergency shelters across the Salt Lake area, not including overflow shelters used during the winter. 

The Road Home stresses housing first. Each emergency shelter is tailored to the individual in need, and there are three options to choose from:

The Men’s Resource Center in South Salt Lake is located at 3380 S. 1000 West and houses 300 single men. 

In Midvale, another shelter is located at 529 W. 9th Ave.,where 300 beds are provided for families. 

Finally, the Gail Miller Resource Center is located at 242 W. Paramount Ave.and is a 200-bed split shelter for both men and women.

The public perception of the homeless community is one of the most challenging factors that Kahn deals with on a daily basis. Upward of 100 children facing homelessness at a time may have to jump through extra hoops to not feel the embarrassment that comes from lack of housing. School buses in Salt Lake City pick up the children at the shelters first on their way to school, and drop them off last so that their peers don’t see their living conditions. 

The Road Home helps families and individuals pay their first months’ rent so that they can get their feet under them and start providing for themselves again. Kahn explained, however, that for about 13% of homeless people that won’t work. Those who face disabilities, have substance abuse disorders, or who are chronically homeless might not make it out of the shelters in that six-month period. 

Homeless shelters in Salt Lake City work with each other, as well as apartment companies, food banks, and mental health facilities to create a healthy environment for those who come to seek help.

Volunteers of America, Utah, is a nonprofit that works with homeless shelters in the area, including The Road Home.

Andrew Johnston, chief strategy leader at Volunteers of America, said in a Zoom interview, “We’ve been doing street outreach for a number of years … there are a lot of folks who are outside all year round who don’t have housing, and we are just offering basic needs and services to them … and trying to get them housing.”

These basic needs are things like getting homeless people IDs so that they can get medical help and subsidized housing. Volunteers of America also helps people get into detox centers and off substances they might be abusing.

While lots of work is happening out in the city, there is another, smaller, community that is making great strides in helping people experiencing homelessness as well.

The basement of the student union at the University of Utah is in the process of building a new basic needs office to help students facing financial hardship and homelessness.

The University of Utah, home to 25,000 undergraduates, works daily to help find affordable housing for its students. The Student Affairs Division acts as an umbrella to multiple departments and centers on campus, including those focused on student diversity and inclusion.

Kimberly Hall, an associate director of development for Student Development and Inclusion, explained in a Zoom interview that the U helps students facing food scarcity and financial problems, and experiencing homelessness. 

“We want to take that concept and ideally help students learn to negotiate the university system as well as community resources to address their needs,” Hall said.

Student Affairs is creating a new office in the student union basement. It will be located next to the Feed U Pantry with the goal that more students will start to utilize the resources that they are paying for.  

The renovated area will be child friendly for parenting students, and will contain a financial wellness office to help with issues ranging from rent assistance to domestic violence situations. Because of its close proximity to the Feed U Pantry, students will also have access to food if they don’t have the money to cover that extra expense.

All across Salt Lake Valley the community is getting involved and making a difference in curbing homelessness.

Kat Kahn, director of development at the Road Home, is one of those individuals who is working hard every day to help people experiencing homelessness. Kahn believes that, “Anyone that wants to be housed should be able to be housed without it being really problematic.”

Utah branch of Decoding Dyslexia helps empower individuals  

Story by THALESE BARNES

Imagine it’s your first day of elementary school. You are feeling nervous because of the unfamiliar surroundings, new classmates, and being away from your trusted mom all day for the first time. Just as you are settling in, the school teacher asks you to read out loud for the class. You look down at your paper, and there is not a single familiar word. You struggle to open your mouth and speak as none of the words, sounds, or letters seem to make sense. Suddenly, you feel as if there is a thick wall standing between the letters on the paper and your eyes.

This scenario is not far-fetched or unique. This story describes the experience of many children due to dyslexia. 

Dyslexia is more common than people think. In fact, The Center for Dyslexia and Creativity found that dyslexia is the most common neurocognitive disorder; 20% of the population is affected by dyslexia.

Many students, parents, and teachers have experienced hearing the words, “you have dyslexia,” “your child has dyslexia,” or “this student has dyslexia.” Unfortunately, despite the frequency of these phrases, very few know the basic meaning of dyslexia, and what resources are available for students and their families. 

Jared Madsen is one of those 20% who has been affected by dyslexia. He said he was diagnosed with dyslexia in first grade by a child psychologist. “The very beginning of school, I remember kids were reading these books, and they were fun and exciting. I wanted to read it, and I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.”

Following first grade, Madsen was frequently pulled out of the standard classroom to attend a resource class. He said this class was a place to stick students who couldn’t get through the school day like the other kids. This class included kids who were disruptive, had physical disabilities, attention deficit hyperactivity, or dyslexia. 

Madsen said in a Zoom interview that he had empathy for his classmates. “I look back on that group of kids in that class with me and know that I was the only one that ended up graduating high school. It was so much easier to drop out.” Madsen said he begged his mom to let him drop out like all the rest of the kids in the resource class, but she wouldn’t let him. 

Jared Madsen owns Madsen Cycles, which are known for their buckets that carry children. Photograph by Travis Richardson, and use is courtesy of Jared Madsen.

He described his experience in the school system as “shattering.” He felt lonely and misunderstood. None of his teachers understood his struggles or provided the tools, resources, or education necessary to succeed after his diagnosis. 

Madsen, now 48, is not the first person to feel shattered by dyslexia and failed by the traditional school system. Despite this adversity, he now has hope for future dyslexic students because of Decoding Dyslexia. Decoding Dyslexia is a network of resources and satellite programs aimed to help young students facing the disorder.

Deborah Lynam is the founder of Decoding Dyslexia, located in New Hampshire. Lynam first became interested in helping those affected with dyslexia when her own son was diagnosed when he was in third grade.  

Concerned by the lack of support and education for those diagnosed, Lynam went to the National Center for Learning Disabilities Conference in October 2011. She left this conference with a group of new friends ready to bring awareness to their children and friends with dyslexia. As Lynam spoke with others at the conference, she said she realized that “this was a diverse group of parents, but they all had the same stories.” 

Every month following this conference, Lynam said in a phone interview, this group of parents would meet at a library in the middle of New Hampshire and discuss plans and ideas to change the face of dyslexia. After many meetings and conversations, Decoding Dyslexia was established.

There are now satellite groups of Decoding Dyslexia in all 50 states. Each state handles its group differently and is in charge of implementing its own Decoding Dyslexia program. All states are at a different stage within the movement, but they all have volunteers working tirelessly to improve resources for their respective communities.

The co-founder of the Utah branch of Decoding Dyslexia is Phoebe Beacham. Beacham was inspired to take part in the movement after watching her father, late husband, and two sons struggle with dyslexia. For the past eight years, she has been on a mission to empower parents, and she regularly presents in front of legislatures with propositions to help dyslexic Utah students succeed in the Utah school system. 

Image courtesy of Phoebe Beacham.

“We initially set out to be a resource for parents, and we are, but our niche has been to educate teachers,” Beacham said. The Decoding Dyslexia group in Utah is focused and determined to help Utah teachers understand how they can recognize a student with dyslexia and help them be successful. 

Beacham said that children who are not supported at a young age may go on to experience problems with the law. She explained that 80% of the inmates of our prisons are dyslexic. Beacham asked the important question, “So what is the difference between this millionaire who has dyslexia or this guy that ended up in prison who is dyslexic?” She answered her own question: “When you speak to successful dyslexics, the most common thread that they have — that you can string them all together with — is that they all said that there was someone that believed in them.”

This is why Beacham and the entire Decoding Dyslexia community are coming together to educate our teachers. This will not only decrease prison rates but will also help those diagnosed with dyslexia to become successful and confident readers and students. 

Jared Madsen said he felt shattered by his earlier educational experience. Sadly, many students with dyslexia echo his perspective and feel that their school systems have failed them. 

However, we need to understand that this is not the fault of teachers, as they have not received the proper education to help students with dyslexia succeed. If our teachers knew how to recognize the signs of dyslexia, the resources available, and how to teach techniques to help those affected, Decoding Dyslexia believes that the world would be much different.

Youth sports and a global pandemic

Story by JACK DALTON

Sportsmanship, Perseverance, Optimism, Respect and Teamwork (S.P.O.R.T.) are the core values of the local Park City, Utah, nonprofit, Youth Sports Alliance (YSA).

Founded shortly after the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, YSA aims to get more kids in the Park City area involved in winter sports. YSA does this two ways, first by providing after-school programs to students in first through ninth grade in the Park City area. And secondly by providing direct scholarship funding through the YSA Stein Eriksen “Dare to Dream” Scholarship Fund to higher-level dedicated athletes (generally high school students), who simply cannot cover their own cost of tuition, training, or travel. 

Today, after-school programs remain at the core of what it does. Beginning in first grade, students can explore nearly 30 summer and winter sports on early release school days.

That program is YSA’s Get Out and Play program. According to the website, Get Out and Play introduces kids to as many sports and skills as possible. They can try everything from alpine skiing and snowboarding to speed skating or mountain biking and everything in between. They can also learn things such as basic camping skills. This program is offered up through fifth grade and is open to all elementary school students. 

Gracie Barre Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has been added to the lineup of programs for April’s Get Out & Play and ACTiV8 Fridays. This six-week class is held at the studio. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

Once students hit middle school they can continue their Get Out and Play experience through ACTiV8. ACTiV8 was developed in direct collaboration with middle school students. According to the website, it provides unique experiences to develop eight of what YSA calls “lifestyle qualities”: Accountability, Confidence, Equality, Inspiration, Kindness, Leadership, Respect, and Versatility. ACTiV8 is available to students in sixth through ninth grade.  

The Stein Erikson “Dare to Dream” scholarship is the last big piece of YSA’s community involvement. According to the website, the fund is a need-based scholarship, provided to deserving athletes in any of YSA’s seven partner programs such as Park City Ski & Snowboard or Wasatch Freestyle. 

On an annual basis, YSA gives out thousands of scholarship dollars to hardworking young athletes in the community who would be unable to compete without funding support. Since 2014 this scholarship fund has brought in right around $2 million for athletes, according to YSA.

Just like every individual, every business, every corporation, COVID-19 hit nonprofits hard. YSA was no exception. The initial lockdown began in Utah on March 13, 2020. At that point, YSA was quickly forced to cancel and refund all of its after-school spring programs and it immediately started its COVID response planning, which YSA Executive Director Emily Fisher said “was just totally reactionary.” 

It also pretty quickly became apparent that most of the key annual events were not going to happen. Jans Winter Welcome, for example, YSA’s biggest annual fundraising event scheduled for fall 2020 was quickly canceled months in advance.

Of course, YSA was eventually able to get the Get Out and Play, and ACTiV8 programs going again sometime in mid-summer, with time and with new COVID safe protocols. And since then, Fisher said in a Zoom interview, those programs have been a massive success at getting kids back outside and active. Seeing their friends, getting in a healthy activity, and building a healthy lifestyle.

Raising scholarship dollars and hosting fundraising events proved to be a slightly bigger challenge, according to many within the organization.

This pandemic year has also resulted in more permanent changes for the organization. And while they were able to host their annual golf tournament over the summer, Jans Winter Welcome became a campaign of direct asks over nearly six months rather than a one-night gala. This campaign turned out to be highly successful for YSA as it raised more than $250,000 according to chief fundraising officer Jana Dalton.

So, what led to this successful campaign in an unpredictable, everchanging pandemic year? 

Unlike many other nonprofits or charities, YSA did not seemingly serve an immediate purpose in a pandemic year. It was seemingly, somewhat non-essential. There are plenty of nonprofits that helped with immediate relief, but YSA and organizations like it are the more unsung heroes of this past year. 

Thor Kallerud, a longtime donor/board member and new board president, said, “Most critically obviously is helping make sure people have food on the table and are healthy.” And in that sense, he said in a Zoom interview, “YSA is kind of the second tier behind essential nonprofits, serving a value to students in the community, by getting them outside, keeping them active, and helping them forget and hopefully improving mental health.” 

YSA has survived this pandemic year thanks in large part to the community around it. Thanks to loyal donors and generous sponsors YSA has a great reputation within Park City. And when it comes to the success of the organization, the proof is in the pudding. Over the last two decades, YSA has contributed heavily to the success of local winter sport/Olympic legends in the community such as Ted Ligety, Sage Kotsenburg, Billy Demong, and Steve Holcomb.

Local legend Ted Ligety with current PCSS athletes at Park City Mountain. And feel free to follow YSA on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Photo courtesy of Heather Sims, YSA’s program director.

As YSA continues to grow and continues to support the youth of Park City after fighting through the past pandemic year and as it continues to instill each of its core values in amateur skiers and future Olympians alike, longtime donor and new board member Tom Litle said, “With YSA, there is an opportunity to just do more of the good stuff.” 

 

How COVID-19 has impacted Utah’s live music industry

Story by SKY NELSON

You’re in a crowded room, bopping your head to the beat of the music as you weave your way through other dancing, sweaty bodies. Maybe you have a drink in your hand, and you are on your way to your friend’s table. Everyone around you is laughing and talking over the music, but all you care about is one of your favorite songs blasting through the speakers, being played live right in front of you.

You’re at a concert and you feel amazing as the energy around you surges through your veins. You feel the drums in your feet and the bass in your chest. You finally see your group of friends and make your way over to them, smiling as you exclaim, “What a fun night!”

George Kelly, founder of Keys on Main, during a live performance. Photo by Rita Mangum.

Except, you probably haven’t been to a concert in months. You are more likely to be in your pajamas right now, reading this from the comfort of your couch.

Since March 2020, the live music industry in Utah, as well as across the globe, has been struggling. Unlike other industries that keep the economy going, the live music industry’s hardships are unique because the product it’s selling isn’t a tangible thing, but rather an experience.

“Live performance puts an emphasis on people coming together and enjoying something that is spontaneous and is an experience and an event,” said Jordan Saucier, a Utah musician. He was speaking by Skype while he was driving to Elko, Nevada, with a colleague to do a paying gig.

Saucier is the definition of a working musician, meaning all of his income comes from performing live with his array of different bands he participates in, working in studio recording sessions, and teaching private guitar lessons.

Despite having a bachelor’s degree in commercial music from Snow College and a master’s in music technology from Southern Utah University, Saucier said his income took a hit “big time” when everything shut down March 14, 2020.

In 2019, Saucier was playing three to seven gigs a week, every week, totaling 135 performances. One of his groups — No Limits, a party band — traveled all around the country for paying gigs. He said the money he made from those live performances accounted for about two-thirds of his income that year.

Now, Saucier only performs locally once or twice a week, which is much better than how he was doing last spring. Because of the pandemic, all his gigs scheduled throughout 2020 got cancelled, and he didn’t get booked anywhere for over 10 weeks. Teaching guitar lessons brought in some money for him, but a lot of his students quit lessons during the first stages of the lockdown.

In one month, he lost an estimated $5,000 and calculated a loss of about $30,000 for the remainder of 2020. Saucier said he realized he needed to “diversify” his income in order to stay on his feet as a working musician. He was able to start his own business called Casino Entertainment Group in which he produces, manages, and books bands for casinos.

Keys on Main, a dueling piano bar franchise founded by local musician George Kelly, has seen hardships as well. Kelly’s two locations in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, have been completely shut down for a year. The Keys on Main in California was forced out of business in the spring of 2020.

Thanks to government assistance and the fact that Utah has been “looser” regarding COVID-19, as Kelly said, Keys on Main in Salt Lake City, 242 S. Main St., was able to re-open in May 2020. Due to the new capacity restrictions, sales went down about 30 percent, and the company had to hire more staff because it had lost 23 employees while Keys on Main was closed.

The Salt Lake City Keys on Main has reopened to patrons for live performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. Photo by Rita Mangum.

The local dueling piano bar managed to stay afloat throughout the summer and into fall, but on Nov. 9, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a mandate banning alcohol sales after 10 p.m. Keys on Main was able to get through those four weeks of the alcohol ban, but sales were down 50 percent, Kelly said.

This decline in sales isn’t just tough for the business, but for its musicians as well. One of Kelly’s friends, David Holloway, is in a popular Mardi Gras jazz band that played for high-paying, huge events before the pandemic. For Mardi Gras this year, the band performed in Salt Lake City’s Keys on Main for free because the musicians were itching to perform on stage and had no other gigs lined up, Kelly explained.

Of course, it’s not all about money. It’s about the music!

Excellence in The Community is a nonprofit organization that has been showcasing Utah musicians since 2005. “We’re trying to help Utah musicians, and we believe that by helping Utah musicians have better performance opportunities and more performance opportunities, and by having these concerts be offered to the public at no charge, we’re helping Utah communities,” said Jeff Whiteley, founder of Excellence in The Community and a musician himself. “The potential contribution of these fabulous musicians of all genres has generally been overlooked, so that’s where we come in.”

On a recent Friday night, Whiteley was at the Gallivan Center, 239 S. Main St., Salt Lake City, setting up for a livestream concert featuring the Xiné String Quartet. The performers and volunteering staff had their temperatures taken when they entered the building and then they filled out forms about COVID-19 symptoms. It showed the organization’s dedication to safety and health as it worked to put on a quality livestream performance.

A behind-the-scenes photo of Excellence in The Community producing a livestream featuring the Xiné String Quartet. Photo by Sky Nelson.

According to Whiteley, the organization has produced over 910 shows in total since it was founded in 2005. The Gallivan Center is the headquarters of Excellence in The Community and has hosted most of its concerts since 2006.

Before COVID-19, the nonprofit put on big band dance events every Tuesday night, where everyone could go to have a music and dance-filled night with their loved ones. Better yet, the local musicians got more exposure, a top-tier stage to perform on, and a regular paid gig to look forward to.

Excellence in The Community’s big band dance event. Photo by Lex Anderson, official photographer for Excellence in The Community.

Since March 2020, Excellence in The Community has had to adjust in order to continue helping local musicians. That support is needed even more now than it was before. Instead of cancelling concerts, Whiteley said the organization has doubled its shows and has put all efforts into producing livestream concerts.

The nonprofit produces a livestream concert every Wednesday and Saturday night, showcasing some of Utah’s best musicians in a variety of genres. Despite a huge loss of funding in spring 2020, the livestreams have proved to be a success. Since that March, the organization has reached over 7 million views in total, according to the website.

“Music is a spiritual experience. Music is a recharging experience,” Whiteley said. That’s why the volunteering staff with Excellence in The Community do what they do. Livestreams are a great way to keep local musicians in business during this pandemic, but they are not equal to live performances.

As musician Jordan Saucier said about live performances, “The musicians are reacting to each other, reacting to the audience, and the energy exchange between all these people is a unique thing at each event.”

Utah’s thriving religious communities exist right under our noses

Story by ABRAM BERRY

Utah is unique in a lot of ways. Compared to most communities, where talking about religion is regarded as a taboo, it is often the primary subject of conversation. Salt Lake City famously is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — widely known as the Mormon church — and is a cultural hotspot for members of the faith.

However, despite a majority of Utahns belonging to that church, it is not the only faith that exists here along the Wasatch Front. In fact, a number of thriving religious communities are hiding in plain sight.

Rev. Martin Diaz is a pastor at the Cathedral of the Madeleine, the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.

There are many reasons as to why someone might join the clergy. But for Diaz, the source of his calling was simple. “The short answer is God,” Diaz said.

The beautiful Cathedral of the Madeleine is the most famous of Salt Lake City’s Catholic churches, but there are a number of other parishes throughout the valley.

The Cathedral of the Madeline in Salt Lake City was completed in 1909. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

“Each parish is involved in its local community,” Diaz said. The parish in West Jordan has a food pantry, the Cathedral has a sandwich program, and some other parishes do clothing drives.

“The people in the parish obviously live in the neighborhood, so for the most part, they’re engaged in the things that are going on in the area,” Diaz said. “Formally, Catholic Community Services is the outreach for the whole church that we do in the state of Utah.” This organization provides a variety of services, including refugee resettlement. According to Diaz, approximately half of the refugees settled in Utah go through Catholic Community Services.

Muslim refugees play a unique role in Utah’s Islamic community. According to Shuaib Din, the imam of the Utah Islamic Center, approximately 80% of the 30,000-60,000 Muslims living between Ogden and Provo are refugees. The Utah Islamic Center, being the largest mosque in the state, is critical in terms of supporting these individuals and their families.

One issue with having the majority of a congregation being made up of displaced people, is that there is not a significant influx of cash coming in from them.

“You can’t expect them to donate,” Din said in a recent phone interview.

But what’s more important than paying their dues, Din said, is getting congregants to become involved in the local Muslim community. However, he is hopeful that the recently completed mosque in West Jordan will serve as a draw. The beautiful new building, which was finished in 2020, is a classy gray and blue and features an impressive spire called a minaret.

The mosque holds four Friday services each week in order to respect social distancing practices, while also allowing as many people as possible to come worship.

“I think that’s pretty unique,” Din said. “I don’t know of too many mosques in America that hold four Friday services.”

Utah’s Jewish population is even smaller than the local Catholic or Islamic communities, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t just as passionate. A number of synagogues exist across the Wasatch Front, including Congregation Kol Ami and Chabad Lubavitch of Utah, both located in Salt Lake City, as well as Temple Har Shalom in Park City.

Elana Fauth is an employee of Hillel for Utah, an organization for Jewish students on Utah’s college campuses. Fauth said that being Jewish in Utah provides some unique challenges.

Hillel for Utah participants posing for a photo at a 2020 event. Photo courtesy of Elana Fauth.

“The feeling of otherness in a place where there is such an established and cohesive culture can be difficult to navigate. I will say that this immediate ‘othering’ makes for a tight-knit Jewish community that is loving and accepting of everyone around them,” Fauth said.

There are a number of denominations in Judaism, with varying levels of observance, that are all part of the larger Jewish community.

“Depending on your levels of observance, the road blocks are even more difficult to navigate: finding kosher food, keeping Shabbat, or plucking up the courage to ask for the day off for Yom Kippur. The list goes on,” Fauth said.

Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is the weekly rest day that Jews observe every Saturday. Yom Kippur is the holiest day of the year in Judaism, and is traditionally observed through fasting, intensive prayer, and a day spent in the synagogue.

Fauth said that there are definitely things that all Utahns can do to make the Beehive State a more inclusive place for Jews.

“Make yourself aware of Jewish holidays, specifically our High Holy Days. As a recent college graduate, I myself am now currently working with college students, and my heart aches for students who feel that they have to choose between their academics and their religious observance,” she said. “The one thing I always tell people is that, to a Jew, expecting us to come to class, take tests, etc., on Yom Kippur is as outlandish as asking us to come in on Christmas.”

Awareness of holidays and other celebrations was something that Father Diaz stressed as well. “I think [Utahns] need to have an awareness of feast days,” he said, adding that he expects people to have some knowledge about the celebrations of the various communities. “For us,” he added, “Easter is the big one coming up. On Easter Sunday, we go to church. A lot of people come. The singing is beautiful, and the prayer is great.”

Throughout all the conversations, the overwhelming theme was that Utahns ought to be more educated about these communities, since they are, in fact, part of our community. Go out and learn about them. Visit a mosque, go to Mass, or attend a Shabbat service. Donate to organizations supporting Muslim refugees or volunteer at a local synagogue.

Most importantly, open up a dialogue. Imam Shuaib Din from the Utah Islamic Center thinks that Utahns are going to be up to the task. He said, “People don’t mind talking about religion in Utah.”

Project Homeless Connect: COVID-19 changed its plans, but not its commitment

Story and photos by JANE KREMER

Oct. 9: This would have been the day where service providers, volunteers, and the majority of those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County would meet at the Salt Palace for services to be rendered and received. But, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the plans.  

Project Homeless Connect, a nonprofit organization run by its committee and volunteers, holds a service event for those experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County annually in the fall. 

According to the organization, among the most popular services provided by this event are medical, dental, vision, and haircuts. In 2019, 125 service providers and 900 volunteers aided over 1,000 people currently experiencing homelessness, with over 3,000 services provided. 

Project Homeless Connect’s fall 2019 service event at the Salt Palace in downtown Salt Lake City.

Mike Akerlow, executive director for Project Homeless Connect in Salt Lake City, started the organization here in 2017 after attending a panel discussing homelessness and PHC in other cities across the U.S. 

Akerlow, who worked for the mayor of Salt Lake City at the time, gained traction for PHC through resources and press coverage from the mayor and support from the community. 

The Salt Lake City Library and a Veterans Administration program, Project Stand Down, had held events similar to those previously conducted by PHC. As Akerlow assembled a team for PHC, he incorporated those programs into the event. 

After running the Salt Lake organization for three years, Akerlow said the organization has been able to improve each year by making its steering committee stronger and refining services provided to people experiencing homelessness. 

“Every year we look at how do we make this the best experience for everyone coming,” Akerlow said during a phone interview. “I think the point of it is to make sure people [experiencing homelessness] are getting connected to the right things.”

In 2020, however, Project Homeless Connect has had to change its events due to the health and safety restrictions of COVID-19. 

Originally, PHC planned to hold events every Friday in October at different homeless resource centers where service providers and volunteers would meet to aid the population. Then, with the surge in cases of COVID-19 in late September, the events fell through.

“Once cases started going up, some of our service providers also got a little bit nervous, so they decided to pull out,” Akerlow said. “And it made sense, we didn’t want to expose people who are experiencing homelessness.”

One of the biggest challenges for the committee this year was reducing the number of 900 committed volunteers down to 20 volunteers due to health and safety restrictions.

Volunteers, from left, Nate Kremer, Robyn Kremer, and Mandy Allen collect donations from community members at a donation drive in October 2020.

“People in our community want to help. I think there’s a lot of people out there who don’t have organizations that they already go to or belong to, and they’re looking for ways that are more meaningful than the traditional service opportunities,” Akerlow said. “And Project Homeless Connect provides that for a lot of people.”

Rethinking how PHC will continue to serve in 2020 and 2021 has been challenging with new information daily surrounding COVID-19. Committee member Natalie Clawson, one of the logistics coordinators for PHC, said the centers that the team planned to visit went the whole summer without a positive COVID-19 test result. 

But as the rise in numbers of COVID-19 in Salt Lake City became more prevalent, PHC had to postpone bringing the services to the centers. 

“The executive directors at all the centers totally understood why we needed to postpone the events,” Clawson said during a phone interview. 

Clawson, who’s been a part of PHC since the first year as a volunteer, said her job description this year is far different than a normal year. 

“At first it was very scary,” Clawson said. “But then as you dig into it, you’re like, you know what this is an opportunity to create and to get everything on its head and rethink what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.” 

Reinvention, as Nicole Handy, the other logistics coordinator for PHC, said, is what this year is all about. 

“As we know, nothing is easy about 2020,” Handy said in a phone interview.  

Handy said the committee knew it wanted to keep the same values and goals while delivering the services this population needs. 

“There is something really rewarding of going in and organizing this event that overall has a really positive outcome,” Handy said. “We are excited when we are able to get back into the centers to really bring some of those high priority [services] in.”

The Project Homeless Connect team held donation drives throughout October, accepting donations such as clothing, hygiene items, and pet care products. It also had a donation link on its website, and had an Amazon wish list that members of the community donated to. 

Bags of donations waiting to be distributed to homeless resource centers across Salt Lake County.

For spring of 2021, PHC plans to return to the original idea of visiting the homeless resource centers weekly to provide services, meals, and donations. Members of the community can learn more about volunteer opportunities for PHC in 2021 and sign up through the website.

The committee for Project Homeless Connect, according to its website, has committed to the idea that “COVID-19 has changed the plan but not our commitment to serving our homeless friends.” 

As Mike Akerlow, executive director for PHC in Salt Lake County, said about the first year, “We did it, somehow we did it.” Little did he know, the very same thing could be said about Project Homeless Connect in 2020 and 2021. 

Nonprofit organization, Holding Out Help, saving lives and providing hope

By BRYNNA MAXWELL

Holding Out Help (HOH) is an organization that has made it its mission to save girls and women from the dangers of polygamous communities. Through a small staff and dedicated volunteer support, HOH provides the care and resources needed for victims to be able to live on their own and become independent.

Cindy Metcalf, director of development and marketing as well as project manager at HOH, said, “We want to make sure they’re safe. We want to make sure they’re mentally stable, that they are getting the best care possible.” A safe environment full of love and protection is new to the women who have escaped polygamous situations. 

A client is participating in a craft session. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

“Polygamy has the greatest sexual abuse statistic in the state,” Metcalf said. “It has a sex abuse rate of 75%.” Metcalf tells of cases where fathers, uncles, and brothers have abused the girls in the family from as young as 4 years old. Boys are sent away to work camps because of their “sinful behavior” where they are physically abused through beatings. 

According to Metcalf and other sources, the abuse does not stop there. When a child misbehaves, they are withheld proper necessities such as food and water and medical care. Child labor is also commonly found where young children are forced to work long hours. They are often required to operate heavy machinery and work in mines without proper protection. 

Metcalf said she has been helping these people since Holding Out Help started. “The girls are like little moms … you typically see a 9 year-old girl being forced to take care of three little ones (children).”

An escapee from a polygamous community who asked to remain anonymous said in a video interview, “The rest of the world will never be able to understand what it is like to be in a place like that.” Holding back tears she described what life was like in three words, “It was prison.”

Holding Out Help offers a safe space for women and children to be their true selves. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

All this abuse is difficult to overcome but Holding Out Help has been a stepping stone for the healing process. The organization not only provides shelter for the women who have escaped, but it also offers resources to help them get back on their feet. These include necessities like clothing, healthcare, and food. Case managers provide counseling, help them get enrolled in school, and coach them to set goals.

The source who escaped polygamy said she smiled when she first walked into HOH. “I realized this was the first moment since we came out that things might be OK,” she said.

Intern Emma Harter has worked for HOH for three years. Photo courtesy of Harter.

Intern Emma Harter has a soft spot for stories like these and the women who come through the organization’s doors. She is now passionately working at Holding Out Help after hearing about it through her high school where she met some of the clients.

“There were multiple people taking classes at my school who had come out of polygamy,” Harter said. “One in particular shared with me her life story and I just had a huge heart for her and being able to see her grow.”

Now, Harter is entering her third year with the nonprofit organization and is changing people’s lives left and right. She is a case manager, specifically over the new residential complex center that was built in 2020.

Her job is simple, meet with clients — women who have escaped polygamy — and help them figure out what they want to do in life. 

“I help establish what their goals are, initially. What they want to see growth in, where they want to move forward in life,” Harter said.

Cindy Metcalf, pictured on the left in the back row, and Emma Harter, in the middle of the back row, smiling for a staff photo. Photo courtesy of Harter. Below, a client selects some new items from a recent school supply drive and a child holds a new backpack. Photo courtesy of Holding Out Help.

These goals range from physical fitness and academics to having successful careers. She then helps them through HOH to take small steps toward achieving those goals. 

Holding Out Help has made such a difference that it is becoming more and more popular among victims seeking refuge. So much so that HOH has needed to nearly double the amount of staff members in 2020.

Because of the rapid growth, the organization’s resources are strained. “We are constantly in need of host homes, mentors, partners, and any other resources,” Harter said. “Especially with COVID, we have experienced more need than ever.”

Cindy Metcalf, the director of development and marketing, said the biggest needs right now are donations. These could be but are not limited to food, clothing, and cash donations. 

Host homes are also always needed. Most girls and women need a family to take them in short term to help them get back on their feet and smoothly transition into society. 

Other ways to get involved are through volunteering or becoming a mentor to one or more of the victims. 

Metcalf said Holding out Help’s goal right now is to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Volunteering could be a tremendous help to that. 

There are many ways to sign up and join the Holding out Help community. Its website is a great tool to not only register as a volunteer or to donate, but also to learn more about the organization and its mission.

Harter said, “If you could offer any sort of service, reach out.”

Sundance is evolving: how the Sundance Institute’s programs are encouraging artists and locals alike

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Story and photos by Charlene Rodriguez

The Sundance Institute has been a prominent organization for independent filmmakers and Utah culture since its creation. However, the Institute has significantly evolved. While filmmaking and collaboration remain at its core, the Institute continues to expand its reach by encouraging diversity and inclusion through its programs. 

According to the Institute’s website, the Sundance Film Festival was first established in 1978 by Sterling Van Wagenen in Salt Lake City. Yet the Institute wasn’t founded until 1981 by Robert Redford. 

 Having initially started as an organization aimed at promoting American-made films and Utah filmmakers, the Institute now extends past its local reach, offering opportunities for upcoming filmmakers from national and international backgrounds. 

Hands-On Experience 

Among the plethora of programs the Institute provides, its fellowships for young filmmakers stand out.

The Ignite Fellowship, as detailed on the Institute’s website, is a collaboration between the Institute and Adobe that is open to filmmakers between the ages of 18-24. Out of thousands of applicants, only 15 are selected for the year-long fellowship. The experience includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the Sundance Film Festival, as well as mentorship from Institute alumni professionals and access to workshops, labs and other associated programs.  

“The Sundance Ignite Fellowship is a great opportunity to learn more about the ins and outs of the industry and also be connected with other emerging filmmakers,” stated Maya Cueva, a 2019 Ignite Fellow, during an email interview.

Ignite Fellows are selected based on their submission of their one-to-eight-minute short films as well as “their original voice, diverse storytelling and rigor in their filmmaking pursuits,” according to a 2018 news release posted on the Institute’s website. 

Cueva detailed her experience attending the 2019 Sundance Film Festival: “It was an amazing experience going to films and events, being able to discuss and pitch my first feature documentary, and being able to connect with the other fellows in the program.” 

When asked how this experience has impacted her perspective on filmmaking, Cueva said, “This experience has definitely given me an opportunity to challenge the way I make documentaries and my style of filmmaking, particularly because the group of fellows do both narrative and documentaries.” 

Opportunities like the Ignite Fellowship allow young filmmakers to network and learn from professionals in the field. This has the potential to jump-start careers while providing the professional environment to further foster individual voice and style. 

Rooted in Utah

While expanding its home offices, broadening its reach and diversifying its stories, the Institute remains grounded by its Utah roots. It aims to encourage the participation of audiences of all ages through its community screening programs. 

The Filmmakers in the Classroom program began in 2000 but is now an annual opportunity for local high school students to view and later discuss a short film with the creators themselves. 

“We’re definitely doing those to bring those middle, junior high and high school students in and kind of expose them to independent films but also giving them the opportunity to meet filmmakers as well,” said Laralee Ownby, assistant director of Utah Community Programs, during a phone interview. 

Year-long programs like the Summer Film Series serve as an option for Utah locals across the state to experience independent films without having to trudge through the grueling festival traffic and crowds.“All of our year-long Utah programs are free and open to the public. That’s one thing that we want to make sure of. That we’re reaching everyone in Utah.” 

The effectiveness of these programs speaks for itself. Through an email interview, Jenny Diersen, Park City special events and economic development manager, shared statistics from previous years’ programs. 

During the 2019 Sundance Film Festival, the Institute’s Utah Community and Student programming reached a total of 11,387 people. This includes Filmmakers in the Classroom, free screenings for high school and college students and various other community screenings. The 2018 Summer Film Series reached a total of 4,113 people over the course of eight screenings. 

Elevating Art and Culture Locally 

Even outside of its own programs, the Institute continues to contribute to community programs that support the development of art and culture in Park City. Project ABC is one of these outreach efforts. 

According to the Project ABC: Arts, Beauty, Culture website, Project ABC is a Summit County initiative that focuses on the promotion, expansion and implementation of artistic and cultural opportunities for local emerging artists and individuals interested in the arts. 

This project includes recommendations for City, County, Businesses and individuals to help grow many areas of arts and culture,” Diersen said. “As arts and culture grows in our community I think it will be important to make sure we continue [to] represent our unique community, history and environment.”  

Collaborative community efforts like Project ABC ensure artistic sustainability throughout the city. Although Sundance focuses primarily on filmmaking and film production, its outreach encompass a variety of expressional styles. 

While the Sundance Institute continues to grow and develop new opportunities for upcoming filmmakers, it doesn’t lose track of its background. With its community programs reaching thousands of individuals each year and support for local artistic cultivation, the Institute keeps inspiring new generations of artists and filmmakers.

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Art with a cause: artwork from cancer patients, caregivers, and staff at the Huntsman Cancer Institute

Story and gallery by MADISEN GATES

The Huntsman Cancer Institute stands as a gentle giant overlooking the University of Utah from the northeast corner of campus. Its massive glass structure is a symbol of excellence and elegance. The building illustrates its mission statement; “The patient first, a united effort, excellence in all we do.”

Treatment can be a stressful time for those who have cancer. The side effects for most people range from physical symptoms to emotional ones.

But what lies inside the facility is more than a treatment center for cancer patients.

For years, HCI has been a leading innovator for cutting-edge cancer research, including creative and emotional therapies.

Shelly White founded the Artist-in-Residence program in 2012 and has served as its director since then. Patients, caregivers, and HCI staff can participate in group or individual art projects every Tuesday throughout the year.  

Coming from a musical family, White said she believes that art can be both mentally and physically supportive.

She applied and was approved for a LIVESTRONG grant that offers funding for creative arts programs nationwide. She was determined to find a way to implement these benefits at HCI.

But these weekly classes are not just art workshops.

The artists leading the program each year act as mentors. Participants can learn skills in pain management and how to relieve stress. They can also spend quality time with loved ones through various art projects. These projects can include painting, mask-making, ceramics, and even designing maps. The patient is able to gain control over one aspect of their treatment – their art.

“I think a lot of the time people feel like they’re having all these things done to them that they wouldn’t choose. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, you wouldn’t choose those things,” White said. “And you get to make choices about ‘what do I want to get engaged in.’”

Each current artist will choose the artist for the next year to ensure the quality and engagement during these workshops. Every prospective artist can attend a session as a guest presenter. The current artist observes how the guest presenter interacts with the patients and attendees. This improves the success of the project to continue enriching the patients’ time in treatment.

Laura Wilson, the current mentor for the program, has been making art her whole life. Her favorite form of art is fine arts, which she studied at Carnegie Mellon to earn her BFA. Every artist is free to run the sessions in their own way. “People are just really happy to be here. The level of creativity here is really high,” Wilson said. “You have people dealing with very hard things, and they just free themselves.”

White said the greatest motivation to continue searching for artists to expand these projects is watching patients flourish creatively. “Seeing the whole person” develop, she said. “Giving people an opportunity for people to express themselves beyond words.”

The sessions are always kept open to allow participants more freedom while they create. There are no rules as to what a participant can or cannot create and participants are able to come and go from the art sessions in between regular treatments.

Vibrant clay tiles form a legacy piece displayed in White’s office.

A brown and red clay art piece is displayed in White’s office, which became a legacy project for one participant.

 

 “With some people, it’s a legacy,” White said. “There was another woman who was in her 40s who had daughters that were probably in their 20s who did this piece. It was a legacy piece because she wasn’t going to survive the cancer, but it was a really meaningful thing she could do with her daughters to make this piece.”

For most participants, the art represents much more than a fun craft project.

Caren Pinson has been attending the sessions for many years as a cancer survivor. She described her time in the Artist-in-Residence program as “life changing.”

“I have medical post-traumatic stress, from long before I moved to Utah and when I actually did first move over it was pretty bad. I didn’t ever really want to see a doctor again,” Pinson said. “But being here, this is really the safest place I’ve ever felt.”

Pinson continues to contribute many ideas to improve the program. She recalled a previous conversation with one of the HCI acupuncture specialists who said, “Huntsman hires compassion and they can teach everything else.”

Seven years later the program has flourished. In addition to the Artist-in-Residence program, a Writer-in-Residence and a music therapy program can be found on the HCI calendar throughout the year.

The programs aim to go even deeper in the upcoming years. It is the hope of the director to pair biologic researchers with participants to show the value of arts through basic science.

The emergence of these programs is a testament to the dedication of the staff at HCI. It is a giant not only in dominating the cancer treatment field, but also for the heart that lies within the walls.

 

It’s On Us and rape culture on college campuses

Story by ALLISON COREY

After eight years of gathering data regarding sexual violence on college campuses, the Obama administration implemented It’s On Us. The organization has now reached nearly 1,000 universities and strives to rectify the country’s rape culture.

When It’s On Us came to the University of Utah, it was run by the student government. In July 2018, Christina Bargelt, 22, became acting president of It’s On Us. “I’m a survivor, and my goal is really just to help fix the things that are fixable,” Bargelt said in a phone interview. “I deserve better and so do other survivors.” Using this objective to fuel her, Bargelt has already made strides to prevent and help victims of sexual violence.

After her third and most brutal assault involving a member of the U’s Greek community, Bargelt said that it was time for her to make a change. An investigation that took longer to occur than she was initially told yielded a heartbreaking result: insufficient evidence. She then pursued a hearing that, yet again, took place almost three months late and had reached the same consensus. Bargelt took every necessary plan of action: she got a rape kit done, hired a lawyer, and had multiple other women testify on her behalf.

Despite her best efforts, Bargelt was defeated by the system. She joined part of the 33 percent of people who become suicidal within a month of their assault, and that feeling heightened when she knew that no legal action could be taken. Bargelt then decided to turn the most traumatic experience of her life into a positive one for others. “It made me lose faith and hope in this institution,” Bargelt said. “I could either wallow in self pity and hate this university, or I could take these things and grow from them so I could improve the lives of other survivors.”

Bargelt has completely transformed It’s On Us at the U. She has worked tirelessly to create relations with university administrators and many resources for victims of sexual violence. She said she forged good relationships with many of the people who helped her aftermath her assault. The Office of Equal Opportunity & Affirmative Action, the Women’s Resource Center, and other organizations have since paired up with It’s On Us. The most helpful resources for Bargelt after the assault, Victim/Survivor advocates, are now the organization’s main allies. She said, “I would not be the advocate I am today without them,” because they are an objective source that provides survivors with options. She has helped the OEO create a more transparent system, and personally speaks to roughly five new survivors each week.

Another issue with rape culture on college campuses is the discrepancy between male and female survivors. Men are often taught not to rape, and are rarely informed on resources or steps to take if they themselves are the victim. Bargelt has specifically gone to every sorority and fraternity in the U’s Greek system, and has given the exact same information about It’s On Us and rape recovery regardless of her audience’s genders. She said one of her goals as president is to destigmatize the notions surrounding male survivors.

In her mission to keep everyone, especially those involved in Greek life, informed, Bargelt gave presentations at each fraternity’s house. Ty Monroe, 19, was an avid listener when she visited his fraternity. Monroe left the Phi Delta Theta house that night with a whole new perspective. He said, “She really touched base on the fact that assaults are not specific to either males or females, it happens to both.” For some men, Bargelt’s presentations encouraged survivors to come forward. For many others, such as Monroe, the presentations offered a new viewpoint and increased acceptance for male survivors.

It is true that not as many men have experienced sexual violence as women, but that does not mean men are any less deserving of advocates. Many men are not believed or recognized once they come forward after an assault on them, and our country’s rape culture often perpetuates these notions and ostracizes male survivors.

Paul Eicker, 20, is a sophomore at the U who was raped by a girl during the fall of 2018. He said he did not press charges or seek investigation into his perpetrator because he immediately thought he would be looked down upon, called a liar, and lose support of friends and family. The fear of coming forward after an act of sexual violence is present in many survivors, but more so in men. “It took me about a month before I told anyone,” Eicker said. “People told me that I was making a big deal about nothing, and that men can’t be raped.” The reactions he got solidified his initial decision to take no further actions.

As the president of It’s On Us, Bargelt is adamant about being completely transparent in telling her story. Sexual assaults and rapes happen often on college campuses, and many people don’t know how big of a problem it is because it is rarely talked about. Bargelt is very open about her personal experience because hearing a story from another survivor frequently inspires others to come forward. Bargelt said that “part of the empowering part of being a survivor is now you have the agency to do something about it. You have the chance to give power back to yourself and you get to decide what your healing journey will be.”

In less than a year, Bargelt transformed the U into the nation’s most successful It’s On Us organization. She has laid out a 10-year plan, so even after she graduates from the U this May her legacy will live on. “I am very aggressive and do not give up on people or projects that I believe in,” she said, and she has confidence that whoever takes her place in July will maintain the positive trajectory of It’s On Us.

The most sustainable and ethical diet for people and the planet

Story and photo gallery by CAMILLE AGLAURE

With so much talk concerning diet in the media, many people find it difficult to know what to eat. What foods are ethically sourced and grown? What foods truly promote human health? What foods support the health of the planet? These are all questions that are fogging up the minds of so many people.  

One thing that Thunder Jalili, Ph.D., and a professor of nutrition and integrative physiology, and Anne Pesek Taylor, registered dietitian, at the University of Utah can both agree on is that, generally speaking, a healthier plate is one with more plants and less overly processed foods and added sugar. 

Pesek Taylor said in an email interview that balanced nutrition needs to account for individual food preferences, lifestyle factors, and include a variety of food groups so it can be maintained long-term. Pesek Taylor referred to the University of Utah’s Healthy Eating Plate, an adaptation of the government’s MyPlate created in 2011, as a useful guide to good health.

What does this mean for meat and dairy, though?

Studies like the popular health book “The China Study” and documentaries like “What the Health” and “Cowspiracy”detail the harmful effects to humans and the environment that come with the consumption of animal-based foods. Jalili said he believes that the absolute exclusion of animal-based foods is not necessarily vital. However, regarding meat, “a little still means a little,” he said. 

Jalili said the maximum recommended intake of red meat is 100 grams per day while the maximum for processed meat is 50 grams. “Once a day is still a lot,” he said, and as far as human health is concerned, many studies indicate that there is, in fact, a decrease in mortality rate among those who maintain a vegan and vegetarian diet. When considering environmental health, there is slightly more to be taken into account when writing out your grocery list.

As more media attention surrounds the question of climate change versus animal agriculture, many organizations and communities are reevaluating the importance of animal-based foods, particularly meat, in a standard, western diet. 

“Raising cows is an environmental disaster,” Jalili said. With animal agriculture accounting for 91 percent of rainforest deforestation, according to The World Bank, and more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire transportation sector, according to the United Nations, Jalili said he believes that it is time for groups of people, like nutritionists, to not focus on health alone, but the bigger picture. “It’s just responsible,” he said. 

So, is a universal vegan diet the solution?

In the opinion of Christy Clay, Ph.D., an associate professor at Westminster College who teaches courses on subjects including biology, ecology, and environmental studies, “a homogenous, universal diet is exactly what has caused so many problems in our current food system.”

Clay said she believes that the current food system has created a monster of unequal distribution of foods, the elimination of native crops and variation, and potentially the loss of culture and professions. 

“We’re not understanding the limitations and values of local resources,” Clay said, as she explained the harms in seeking mainstream foods that do not naturally occur locally. Clay used the example of quinoa, a grain that grows in the Andes that is now exported to Western countries more than it is provided for locals who have depended on the grain in their diets for centuries. To be truly sustainable and ethical, Clay maintained that “diets should be bio-regional.”

For Clay, the ethical question of which foods to eat is not as simple as drastically lowering our consumption of meat. Rather, “there’s a whole dismantling of a current food system that needs to happen,” Clay said as she painted a picture of just how disrupted our way of eating has become. 

So, where do we begin?

Clay suggested that the first action to take is having the conversation about “how broken our food system is.” This consists of poor income for those in the agriculture industry, the cost and precarious nature of leasing land to farmers, a decline in community gardens, and loss of interest in crops that have fallen out of the mainstream.

“What does it look like to say we actually value this profession?” wondered Clay as she additionally suggested encouraging communities to be a space for local gardening. Already, there are a number of organizations working to do just that, including Green Urban Lunch Box, which goes from school to school, educating children on the value of local gardening while furthermore educating local farmers. 

Making a difference in your community requires collective action to encourage local agriculture and farming. Clay suggested gardening out of your own backyard. If you live in an apartment complex, ask your landlord or property owner about creating a roof garden. Clay also suggested engaging with other community gardens and protecting land to be used for local farming. Getting back in touch with a farm-to-table way of eating is imperative for a sustainable diet. Rekindling a healthy and community-based relationship with food is the best way for individuals to eat ethically, healthily, and in an environmentally friendly way. 

Shane Bryan

IMG_7297My Story: Biking into the Future with Bike Utah

My Blog: Reflection Blog

About Me: Originally from New Hampshire and now a Senior at the University of Utah studying Strategic Communication. Currently Marketing Director for the University’s mountain and road bike team. Always on the move and seeking new challenges. In the future, a dream job would be marketing in the mountain bike or auto industry.

Check out my LinkedIn here

Biking into the Future with Bike Utah

Article and Photos by Shane Bryan

SALT LAKE CITY — Biking on city streets can be intimidating for new bicycle commuters. The rush of traffic, distracted drivers and the difficulty of using a map can easily deter people from riding bikes instead of getting into a car. Bike Utah, a bicycle advocacy organization, is here to help residents all over Utah get on a bike and feel safe while doing so. They work to make cities and towns all over the state more bike friendly.

Based in Salt Lake City, Bike Utah operates as a non-profit organization. The organization started ten years ago after a road cyclist was hit and killed on the Utah

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Simon Harris demonstrating proper road riding techniques (Photo by Shane Bryan)

roads. The founders quickly became aware that there needed to be some serious advocacy for safety between drivers and cyclists. The mission of Bike Utah is to “integrate bicycling into the everyday culture of the state,” says Simon Harris, Bike Utah’s Youth Program Manager. “We envision Utah as the most bicycle friendly state in the country.”

Bike Utah carries out their plan via city planning—putting traffic plans into action, and working with local governments to make the roads a safe haven for cyclists.  

Throughout the city, there are extra wide bike lanes with more room for riders and marked lines so drivers can steer clear. There are large signs specifically identifying bike lanes, and paint on the roads to show where the lane is and where bike riders have a right-of-way. Popular destinations are also clearly marked with nearby street

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Wide bike lane Eastbound on 300s (Photo by Shane Bryan)

signs, eliminating the need to use a map or phone while you ride, all in an effort to keep bikers safe.

Bike Utah has been chosen as the non-profit sponsor for the new Thousand Mile campaign, an effort to revamp old bike paths and add new ones totaling 1,000 miles. Introduced by Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, the Thousand Mile campaign is intended to make Utah one of the best cycling and active transportation states in the country.

Bike Utah’s role is to “provide strategic planning, technical assistance, and financial resources so communities can begin or continue developing bicycling in their area,” according to Bike Utah, they help, “communities to advance their bicycle-related goals.” This means advancements in local bike routes to get kids to school, people to work and riders out enjoying the roads and trails. 

Multi-use pathways and mountain bike trails are also laid out in the Thousand Miles plan. Salt Lake City also has protected bike lanes, similar to ones found in Europe, in which there is a physical concrete barrier separating the bike lane and the car lane, reducing the probability of a car merging into the bike lane. Through their work, Bike 

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Concrete barrier separating the road from the bike lane Westbound on 300s (Photo by Shane Bryan)

Utah would like to inspire people to ride bikes instead of driving, to help keep our air clean and reveal the health benefits of pedaling to your destinations. Active transportation is healthy for you and the community. Riley Peterson of Salt Lake City, commutes around the city all the time whether it’s to school or to work. “I always have lights on which makes it safe and I have never had an issue with any cars,” says Peterson. “Plus, it is just more fun to ride.”

There are things you can be doing to further increase your safety on the road. For starters, follow the rules of the road. Stop at stop signs, use hand signals, and stay in your lane. Also, wear bright colors. Brighter colors will pop and grab the attention of drivers. Standing out from the line of traffic on a bike will separate you from the crowd. Having a front and rear light is also a good way to do this. Many people think that only having a front and rear light at night is important; however, Adam Olson, Manager of Trek Bike, encourages riders to use 

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LED lights can keep you safe day and night (Photo by Shane Bryan)

lights at all times. “Using lights in the day time increases your chances of being seen,” says Olson. “Drivers are more likely to see a flashing object over a cyclist with no safety warnings attached.”

Drivers are always subliminally looking for objects that they are accustomed to seeing on the road (street lights, street signs, parked cars, etc.), the flashing of a light makes it apparent to drivers that there is something else to watch out for. 

Bike Utah also hosts an amazing kids program teaching kids from an early age about bike education and safety by visiting schools statewide.  Over 250 kids have learned how to ride a bike while increasing overall bike knowledge by 67 percent. You can support Bike Utah and follow upcoming events by clicking here for more information. Next time, consider throwing a leg over a bike before you step into a car.

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Curing homelessness with a focus on the individual

Story and Photos By Clara Welch

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has been striving to relieve the burden of homelessness and make downtown safe. A 2017 study found 2,876 homeless people across Utah — 1,804 people in Salt Lake County alone.

 

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Rio Grande area has a high population of homeless and has been the center focus of efforts to combat these numbers in Salt Lake City. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Operation Rio Grande — Salt Lake City’s initiative to address homelessness along the Wasatch Front — has three phases focused on reducing crime, helping those with mental illness or addictions, and finding employment and housing for individuals. Improvements have been seen from these efforts and are expected to continue.

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A homeless man sits on a bench trying to stay warm on a chilly morning. Other people were walking around or sleeping. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Utah has been using a Housing First model since 2015.  Housing First departs from the traditional ideas that people need to be sober and employed before they can be given a basic human necessity. Finland and Japan have adopted this method and have very low numbers of homelessness. The success rates vary, depending on how you analyze it, from 40-80 percent of those being housed remaining housed. They are encouraging numbers from a tactic that focuses on the person as a human being, not as a burden.

Organizations all across the Salt Lake Valley are striving towards the same goal as Operation Rio Grande, providing multidimensional help from medical to social needs. Community efforts are changing the care that is provided, bringing the humanity back into relieving the burden of homelessness.

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Maliheh Clinic is a free clinic serving those who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty standard. They offer multiple services, focused on providing quality healthcare no matter the ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. (Photo by Clara Welch)

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Maliheh Clinic’s mission statement and numbers for 2016. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Collin Hoggard, a student at the University of Utah, volunteers at the Maliheh Clinic. Hoggard explained how the Maliheh Clinic, “started as a way to reach out to the uninsured people in Utah.” It’s been serving patients who earn less than 150 percent of the federal poverty guidelines since 2005.

In 2016, Maliheh had 15,344 patient visits and 28,819 volunteer hours served. Providing preventative care, the Maliheh clinic reduces the burden that emergency rooms and hospitals experience with patients coming in with easily prevented emergencies.

Hoggard is a Spanish interpreter and accompanies patients on routine visits to therapy sessions. “It’s been amazing to connect with the patients,” says Hoggard, who sees real people with real needs. It has changed the way he sees those in different circumstances than himself. 

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Fourth Street Clinic has been serving homeless patients since 1988 and was moved to this location in the early 90s. (Photo by Clara Welch)

 

4th Street Clinic

Fourth Street Clinic’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Like the Maliheh Clinic, the Fourth Street Clinic provides free healthcare and is located near Rio Grande. It’s a convenient location for many of the homeless people located downtown. The Fourth Street Clinic has a staff of over 60 people, including 7 full-time healthcare providers, and 150 volunteers providing over 14,000 hours of volunteer service. James Jarrad, Development and Communication Manager at Fourth Street Clinic, explained that the network of donors, volunteers, and staff bring quality healthcare to 5,000 yearly patients, who otherwise, would have none.

Jarrad visits with real patients who share their stories for the clinic website. “Becoming homeless can happen to anyone and for almost any reason,” he says. “There are so many different things to get to where you are in life and they can add up to either completely build your life up or tear it down,” Jarrad explains. “Sometimes you have no control, sometimes it’s within your control.”  

 Jarrad emphasized that, “homelessness is so much more complex”, than what the general public might think.

Connect2Health

Connect2Health’s mission statement with their number reports for 2017. (Photo by Clara Welch)

Connect2Health is a non-profit, student-run organization with a mission to “empower individuals to utilize community resources in order to cultivate multi-dimensional health.” By enlisting eager students, Connect2Health strives to connect patients with the resources they need to get back on their feet.

Focusing on needs other than medical, Connect2Health volunteers work one-on-one with patients at multiple locations. Volunteers can be found at Fourth Street Clinic, University Hospital, Primary Children’s, and the Wellness Bus. Connect2Health is creating a new norm by sending patients out with not only prescriptions, but resources including food, clothing, child care, and degrees.

Knowing that help is available is empowering to homeless and low-income individuals, but volunteers are impacted in a powerful way as well.  “It really helps to break down bias, develop cultural sensitivity, and develop empathy,” say Alexis Lee, Director of Connect2Health.

Volunteers work with individuals, who right now, happens to be homeless, says Lee, but it is important to see these people outside of their immediate circumstances. Connect2Health engenders empathy and understanding for these individuals, Lee says. 

Helping the homeless is more than just making downtown safer, it’s about seeing people for who they are. Operation Rio Grande addresses part of the issue of fixing homelessness, but it is organizations like Maliheh, the Fourth Street Clinic, and Connect2Health that fulfill the bigger picture and long-term needs.

What keeps these organization going are the volunteer hours. Donating time and spare items can make a difference in another human’s life. Homelessness is a multi-dimensional issue. A combined effort from the state, city, organizations, and individuals will help lift people from the burden of homelessness and be seen as fellow human beings with just a different set of challenges than you.

 

 

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Reaching out to China’s past

Story and gallery by PORTER L. ANDERSON

The Family History Library in downtown Salt Lake City has for many years been a free and open facility where visitors can come and conduct research about their ancestors. The library is the largest genealogical library in the world and attracts people from all walks of life to travel to Utah just to take part in the work that takes place there.

Recently the library has implemented a new interactive activity for those visitors who come from China. “The Genealogical Society of Utah and the Family History Library have always been working to build an open and informative experience for visitors of our great state,” said Yvonne Sorenson, the library’s administrative representative.

The Family History Library is located on Temple Square, which is the most visited tourist site in all of Utah. Temple Square is a large plot of land with many different facilities that are owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian church that has a strong following in Utah.

The interactive experience that can be found on the main floor of the Family History Library is meant to be the first look into genealogical work for those who haven’t had much experience before. Visitors are guided by the volunteers that work in the library to several different stations where they are able to learn about famous relatives, facts about their birth, interesting stories about ancestors, and so much more.

The newly remodeled main floor has been open for almost two years but just recently the administration decided to create an experience specifically for Chinese guests who couldn’t take part in the regular activities due to lack of Chinese records in the library.

“We realized that so many international visitors would come to visit Temple Square but, we would often have to turn them away from our interactive activities. We wanted to help reach out to these people in any simple way we could to help the guests get excited about family history work while making them feel welcome to our facilities,” Sorenson said.

The Chinese experience has been in place for almost three months and the results have been nothing short of amazing. One of the translators for the library, Charles Garrett, said, “It is so amazing to see these wonderful people come to the library and be so excited to see that they can learn simple things like the origin of their last name. They just seem to light up and get excited to learn more about their families.”

While the program is still in the testing phases it remains very simple but, with the results that have been observed over the past few months, the administration of the library is really excited to continue building on the experience. “I would love to see the experiment we have created grow to a more substantial point,” Garrett said when asked how he felt about the future of the program.

While the future of the program seems bright, no concrete plans have been made to improve the activities or even keep them up and running after the test period is over at the end of the year. The patrons of the library are very inspired by the activity and seem genuinely excited to revisit the library if they were to visit Utah again.

“This was very interesting for me because it taught me a lot of information about myself that I didn’t know. I only wish the building had the materials for me to do more searching into my past,” said Li-Wei Chen, a visitor who is traveling from Shanghai.

This is the exact result that the library administration was hoping to see from these visitors. “We were hoping that we could build the excitement that we see the locals get when visiting but, we’re a little short on resources to do it. I think the team in charge of the program has done a wonderful job creating this experience and I hope that we decided to put more effort and keep the program for the long-term,” Sorenson said.

The library has access to thousands of genealogical resources but few of those are Chinese, which makes the program that much more impressive. The program being added for the long-term would be a great addition to the library but would also help the state of Utah as well. Creating global attractions like the Family History Library builds the state’s reputation as a place that welcomes all visitors.

With the inclusion of the Chinese experience in the Family History Library, it shows that the LDS church is aware of the importance it holds in building tourism and attending to the growing international attention that Utah is getting.

Sorenson added, “We want to continue to create a global experience here that can be enjoyed by all. The journey may be difficult and we may struggle to find a way but, we are determined to help all find the joys that genealogical work can bring to an individual.”

Bags to Beds program makes a lasting impact upon the homeless community in Salt Lake City

Story, photos, and video by SPENCER K. GREGORY

A local student has created a service project that has impacted the homeless community in Salt Lake City.

Kaitlin Mclean, creator and director of the Bags to Beds program.

Kaitlin McLean, a fifth-year student at the University of Utah, has created a system in which the participant recycles plastic bags, creates plastic yarn, and produces mats that she said can then be used to “help our homeless neighbors.” This service project has been referred to as Bags to Beds.

“Bags to Beds is a community service project that’s looking to reduce waste for our community by breaking down plastic bags that can’t be recycled,” McLean said.

She organized this student-directed service project through the Bennion Center. The Bennion Center is a nonprofit organization on the U’s campus that serves the local community.

Since then, McLean is now the director of the program and has made a tremendous impact upon sustainability within the Salt Lake Valley.

She said that it averages about 40-50 hours of service per mat.

Students can get involved with however much time they want to spend.

One U student, Megan Peterson, said, “The project itself was really easy, and not hard to understand.”

Peterson is currently a third-year student who is studying communication with an emphasis in strategic communication. She specifically loves to help out the Bennion Center Scholars program.

Peterson mentions how she was first introduced to Bags to Beds at a Scholars social where they just ate pizza. In the meeting they casually discussed goal setting with students pursuing their work for their personal engagement within the community.

Afterward, the Scholars were unified in their efforts to cut plastic bags into objects that would later be used into “plarn.”

U students hard at work with “plarn.”

“Plarn” is the term that Bags to Beds has adopted to describe the unique process of creating the service phenomenon.

Bryan Luu offers insight as to the process and functionality of plarn making. He said, “Plarn is a form of plastic yarn. It’s what wove together these giant mats. All of it’s made from plastic bags that have just been cut into strips and tied together to resemble the yarn.”

Once the mats are made from the plarn, they are immediately distributed to a local resource center or to Project Homeless Connect.

Homeless Connect is a one-day event that helps provide services and outlets for those who are homeless. People can learn how to get involved in this project by visiting the website.

The program has a tremendous connection to the Project Homeless Connect happening in downtown Salt Lake City. “We’ll have all the mats we’ve finished throughout the year for those that are anticipating they’ll be outside this year,” McLean said.

McLean said they expect to help more than 600 individuals during 2018.
“It also gives us an opportunity to work with other people who work with this population, and also get to know the people we are serving,” she said.

This program has made a great impact upon a tremendous social issue.
Peterson said, “Even though homelessness itself is such a huge issue, they’re just trying to help a little bit by taking waste that can’t even be recycled, and then re-using them for something useful.”

Peterson added, “It also helped me focus in on an issue that I’m not thinking about all the time.”

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Bryan Luu shares his experience with Bags to Beds.

Luu, a fifth-year student at the U studying civil engineering and urban ecology, said, “My time with Bags to Beds really has shaped a lot of my community involvement because I feel as if I can continue making a difference. Just having that knowledge, is just really important. Then I can be able to still give back to my community.”

Students or other patrons can visit Bags to Beds to get actively involved. Visitors can then fill out a volunteer interest form.

Bags to Beds has trained organizations and individuals to work independently on the service project at the Bennion Center or even at home.

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Bags to Beds was founded by University of Utah student Kaitlin McLean.

So if you’re a community member, student, or local citizen in the community there are many ways for you to get engaged in this great organization. According to McLean, Bags to Beds can even personally deliver plarn right at your door.

Peterson said it’s an “easy way to get involved.”

Paige Remington, another student at the U, said, “Although I am not directly helping people who are experiencing homelessness, I am using my hands and my time to create something that will hopefully alleviate a small amount of suffering.”

Debbie Hair, the administrative assistant for the Bennion Center.

Debbie Hair is the administrative assistant for the Bennion Center. She has helped the founder of Bags to Beds from the beginning. She said, “This project went off miraculously with a lot of attention.”

Hair added, “There’s a couple of different reaches this program has, one is environment. We’re not just reaching out to the homeless to give them comfort, but we’re also repurposing those bags.”

According to Bags to Beds, the program has collected over 12,000 plastic bags for active sustainable use in the community.

Bags to Beds has a plan to prepare a model that is sustainable moving forward. McLean said, “The project will continue to flourish no matter how many students there are.”

Students through the Bennion Center and community members in the Salt Lake Valley have been the main community engagement resource, providing service hours for the program. However, the organization plans to spread to other cities.

Since the early years of the program, it has now officially become an incorporated business outside of the Bennion Center.

McLean said, “Bags to Beds is now in the process of becoming a tax-deductible nonprofit organization.” Bags to Beds has made a tremendous impact upon the homeless society in the Salt Lake Valley and will continue to change countless future lives.

YouTube video:

An nonprofit’s initiative to educate Utah about child abuse

Story and images by ALLISON PFERDNER

The statistic — one in five Utah kids will be sexually abused before they turn 18 — is one of the first things you’ll see when you visit Prevent Child Abuse Utah’s website. Prevent Child Abuse Utah, or PCAU, is a nonprofit organization that seeks to educate children and parents throughout the state in hopes of lowering Utah’s child abuse rate, which is three times the national average.

Child abuse statistics are framed and hung in the organization’s offices in Salt Lake City.

PCAU has developed an age-appropriate curriculum and staff go into K-12 schools to teach children how to recognize abuse and empower them to report it.

As the community outreach program administrator for PCAU, Gwen Knight trains adults to recognize abuse, understand the reporting laws in Utah, and support the students once they report. Knight said that according to research, once adults are taught to recognize abuse and report it, they are more likely to want their children to learn about it as well.

This is Gwen Knight in her office at PCAU’s headquarters in Salt Lake City.

This brings up the topic of how PCAU brings awareness to its organization and how it gets into schools to teach its curriculum. Through community outreach programs, booths at the PTA Convention, and the many presentations PCAU does throughout the state, schools will reach out to PCAU to learn more about having the nonprofit come teach its curriculum in specific schools.

While many schools want the organization to teach its curriculum, other schools are difficult to get into. Knight provides a few counterpoints for some of the common reasons why schools say no. First, schools use the excuse of not having time for the classes. Knight said, “It only takes 30 minutes and if a child is dealing with abuse, they aren’t focusing anyway.” Second, schools don’t want their communities to perceive that their schools have children being abused in them. However, research shows that abuse happens in every demographic.

This is Safetysaurus, the puppet mascot, which is used to teach children in schools.

Parents have the opportunity to review the curriculum before it is taught and if they don’t approve, they are able to indicate that they don’t want their child to participate. The age-appropriate curriculum covers every kind of abuse including sexual, emotional, neglect, and physical abuse. It teaches children that their bodies belong to them.

PCAU is a statewide organization with community partners in Box Elder, Cedar City, the Uintah Basin, Tooele, Park City, and the Wasatch area. It trains people in each of these areas on its curriculum. This helps the nonprofit reach more people.

This organization also provides a program called Parents as Teachers in Davis County. Staff go directly to the homes of pregnant women and families with kids up to the age of 5. They provide instruction on how to raise healthy children by teaching about nutrition, sleep, safety, and discipline.

PCAU’s Certificate of Charter is displayed on the front desk in the Salt Lake office.

Rebecca Virgo, the Parents As Teachers Program administrator, says that other than reaching out to households, the program gets referrals from hospitals as well as families contacting them. The program has a list of stressors that staff pay attention to in order to know who they should reach out to. Some of these stressors are: military families, incarcerated parents, teen parents, and any type of illness present in the home.

Virgo said the biggest challenge of going into homes and working with the families is the observation that “helping is not always helpful.” When some parents receive help, they often don’t feel like they are seen as capable or trustworthy. It is more important for the visiting staff to connect the family with resources that will assist them rather than doing all the work for the parents.

A pinwheel is the symbol for preventing child abuse in America.

The staff’s main goals when they work with families are to facilitate connection, help them achieve goals, and to supply them with a wide range of parenting skills. “Your story that you grew up with doesn’t have to be your story for your children,” Virgo said.

The program is helping 120 families right now and is looking to expand to help 45 more in the near future. Due to the labor-intensive nature of this program, it can’t expand too far but Virgo suggests an alternative to families who want the extra help.

If you text utfamily to 27448, you can subscribe to Bright by Text, which sends out messages to parents of children prenatal to 5 years old. The messages contain helpful information based on the age of the child on things like child development, health and safety, and tips.

In both of these programs, Community Outreach and Parents as Teachers, Prevent Child Abuse Utah is spreading awareness and making a difference in children’s lives around the state.

As the assistant to the executive director, Ashley Workman urges everyone “not to underestimate the importance of what we do.”

“You can never teach this information too much,” Workman said.

So much growth has already happened in PCAU and the communities it works with and so much more can happen, Workman said. She wants parents to “not be surprised by the fact that the majority of abusers are people the child trusts because it’s unfortunately common.”

Workman’s plea to parents is: “If they run into a child that’s been abused, beg them to support the child.”

Prevent Child Abuse Utah’s logo on the main wall in the office.

Redefine beauty with positive body image

Story and gallery by MORGAN STEWART

“In the last decade, there was a 446 percent increase in the number of cosmetic procedures in the U.S., with 92 percent performed on women. The majority being liposuction,” according to Beauty Redefined.

Today more than ever women and young girls are facing unrealistic ideals about beauty and body image. Coming from every media outlet, these beauty standards are becoming extremely harmful to the thoughts and minds of young girls and women all over the world.

Identical twins Lexie and Lindsay Kite recognized this issue and established the nonprofit organization Beauty Redefined in 2013 after obtaining their doctoral degrees from the University of Utah. After great research and study the twins have made it their mission to shine light on the effects of the beauty standards that are portrayed in the media and to start a different conversation about body image.

Their Story

As young girls, the twins were avid competitive swimmers starting at just 6 years old. The girls loved to swim until their attention moved from their actual performance to the way they looked in their swimsuits, Lindsay writes on the organization’s website. This started the girls’ “preoccupation with weight loss” that consumed so much of their thoughts and actions during their developmental years.

But the girls were not alone. Many of their friends were experiencing the same thoughts and emotions toward their bodies and appearances. The common factor that the girls believe attributed to some of these thoughts was the “easy access to media our entire lives,” Lindsay wrote.

Movies, television, social media and magazines all portray a certain standard for beauty. What is cool, what is not cool, what is thin, what is fat, and even what it means to be successful. And the list goes on.

Today

Today, Beauty Redefined has become a successful tool for spreading awareness of the damaging cultural standards that are portrayed in the media. Lexie and Lindsay travel the world teaching about positive body image and their strategies for developing what they call “body image resilience.”

In an online interview with the women they described body image resilience as “the ability to become stronger because of the difficulties and objectification women experience living in their bodies, not just in spite of those hard things.”

Through their speeches, website, blog, social media accounts and eight-week body image resilience program the twins are helping women and girls all around the world to shut down these ideals and to build positive body image from within.

The Beauty Redefined “Body Image Resilience Program” is an eight-unit online program. The program is designed to teach women how to recognize harmful messages in the media and how to reflect on the ways in which those messages impact their daily lives. Furthermore, the program guides women through the process of redefining beauty and how we think about beauty, health and self-worth.

Though there are many “well-intentioned” people who promote positive body image by telling women to embrace their beauty and bodies, Beauty Redefined takes a different approach. “Beauty Redefined is changing the conversation about body image by telling girls and women they are MORE than beautiful,” Lexie told me. “We assert positive body image is about feeling positively toward your body overall, not just what it looks like.”

The Beauty Redefined mantra is: “Women are more than just bodies. See more. Be more.”

Because media in all forms are becoming increasingly easy to access, the popularity of various social media platforms has skyrocketed in the past few years as well as the negative effects that accompany them.

I asked the women how they felt the rise of social media has been affecting women today. “As image-based social media content like Instagram and Pinterest have soared in popularity, so has the endless self-comparison so many girls and women engage in. That self-comparison is a trap, a ‘thief of joy,’ and leads to unhappiness,” they said.

To avoid the harm of self-comparison and the other dangerous messages portrayed in the media the sisters recommend going on a “media fast.” Avoid the use of any and all forms of media for a few days to “give your mind the opportunity to become more sensitive to the messages that don’t look like or feel like the truths you experience in real life, face to face with real fit people and your own health choices,” Lexie suggested. By eliminating media for a period of time you allow yourself to become more aware of these messages and the way they truly make you feel.

Another tip the women shared with me is to “stay away from mirrors while exercising.” Research has shown that women who work out in front of mirrors are less likely to perform to the best of their ability because their focus is on how they look rather than what their bodies are able to do.

Finally, “use your body as an instrument, not an ornament: When women learn to value their bodies for what they can do rather than what they look like, they improve their body image and gain a more powerful sense of control,” Lexie said. This is the mantra that much of the organization’s content stems from.

Moving Forward

Though there are many issues concerning female body image and the way women’s bodies are portrayed in the media, the biggest issues are that “women’s bodies are valued more than women themselves,” Lexie said.

Objectification is the root of these issues and both men and women must fight to stop it.

The sisters believe that “progress for all of society requires valuing women for more than our parts, not simply expanding the definition of which parts are valuable.”

 

Best Friends Animal Society hopes to ‘Save Them All’ through NKUT initiatives

Story and gallery by KEATON SHIRK

The well-known scenery of Utah red rock complements the vast, open landscape that is home to 1,600 rescue animals in Kanab, Utah. Tucked away between national parks, these animals are living the good life.

The Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization providing a safe shelter for rescued animals brought in from around the world. Its strict policy as a no-kill animal organization aims to bring to the public’s attention solutions to help reduce the number of sheltered animals.

At the Best Friends Animal Society’s sanctuary, high-spirited and irresistibly lovable dogs greet you with wet kisses and the eagerness to tell their rescue story. They long for the right companion to come along with the willingness to lend an ear (maybe even a gentle belly rub too), while they grab your heart and prove why their life is valuable.

Pigs, bunnies, and parrots live at the sanctuary too and leave people impacted in unfamiliar yet awe-inspiring ways.

The Best Friends Animal Society was founded in the 1980s by a passionate group of individuals determined to save the lives of animals.

Despite the lack of public support and funding, Best Friends built the nation’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary in Kanab in 1984. The sanctuary encompasses 3,700 acres of land.

“We had no visible means of support. We were hung out to dry. We were all in it together,” said Francis Battista, co-founder of Best Friends, on the website.

Euthanasia is the chosen method for population control in most animal shelters. In the 1980s, Best Friends Animal Society reported, “17 million animals were being killed each year in U.S Shelters.” Particularly, cats and dogs suffer from the highest kill rates among all sheltered animals.

Best Friends has initiated a campaign to make Utah a no-kill state. The initiative is called No-Kill Utah and it is hope to be reached by 2019.

The NKUT initiative began after the originators of Best Friends found themselves disturbed by the staggering statistic of cats and dogs killed yearly.

Best Friends has been working closely with animal shelters around Utah in an effort to break the rising trend of overpopulation in animal shelters. Overpopulation causes shelters to defer to euthanasia to reduce financial costs of caring for animals and maximizing space.

Right now Best Friends has partnered with 58 animal shelters in Utah. This number is growing as the campaign reaches new audiences.

All animals at Best Friends are given second chances, the kind of second chances that quite literally change their lives.

The slogan, “Save Them All,” is an anthem for employees and volunteers. It also serves as a compelling reminder, that killing homeless animals is an unnecessary solution to an issue that can be changed.

The sanctuary welcomes animals that have been neglected, treated unjustly or suffered life threatening physical conditions. The founders hoped, “to give homeless animals the chance to live a fulfilling life.” 

Their hopes still reign true today. Every year, data is collected and shows more animals successfully leaving shelters alive to live in homes with welcoming hearts. 

Because of the impact Best Friends had on the community of Utah animals, expansion is taking place in other cities in the United States. Best Friends adoption facilities are open in Atlanta, New York and two in Los Angeles. 

Joan Filla, from Wisconsin, has been coming to Best Friends for nine years. She visits only three times each year.

She has witnessed the physical growth at Best Friend’s sanctuary. Filla said in an interview that there are more buildings available to care for animals.

Not only has Best Friends grown physically, Filla also said that awareness for sheltered animals is extending farther than Utah boundaries. She found the best way for her to advocate about the mission of Best Friends is to simply wear her volunteer T-shirt.

Filla said people consistently approach her and ask what Best Friends Animal Society is. She uses this interaction as a way to promote and advocate for the organization and the no-kill initiatives currently in effect.

Best Friends has initiated a campaign to make Utah a no-kill state. The initiative is called No-Kill Utah and it is hoped to be achieved by 2019.

This would mean all animals in the state of Utah are guaranteed their life, regardless if physical space in animal shelters is not available. If space is unavailable, animals are transported to partnering NKUT shelters that can accommodate them.

Best Friends encourages the type of community involvement, like that of Filla, to help spread the word about NKUT.

To successfully achieve NKUT by 2019, Utah must have a “combined save rate of 90 percent” in all animal shelters.

In other words, 90 percent of animals that enter shelters must leave alive. The remaining 10 percent takes into consideration natural deaths and terminal illnesses of animals.

Deb Parker, a previous volunteer who now works full time at Best Friends, moved from upstate New York to join the community and support the work of Best Friend’s sanctuary.

In an interview, Parker said, “In fiscal year 2017, we had an 87 percent save rate in the entire state of Utah, had close to 2,000 adoptions and did over 37,000 spays and neuters in the state alone.”

Parker added, “Yes, we are on track for both No-Kill Utah 2019 and No Kill 2025. Spread the word, the more people helping to achieve this, the better.” Best Friends plans to make all U.S. cities no-kill by 2025.

The NKUT initiative began after the originators of Best Friends found themselves disturbed by the staggering statistic of cats and dogs killed yearly.

In 2000, “nearly 38,000 healthy and adoptable animals were being killed in Utah every year,” reported Best Friends in an online news release. 

That’s when NKUT was initiated. It was an aggressive attempt to reduce the rising yearly deaths among sheltered cats and dogs.

As of 2017, the number is down to roughly 2,400. Nearly half a million dogs and cats have been saved from 2000 to 2017.

Best Friend’s aspirations have been manifested by its work within Utah. Resources are available so Utah communities have the ability to promote NKUT and make the campaign a success by 2019.

Best Friends offers legislative empowerment to those who wish to take action through lobbying elected officials. Reaching out to elected officials is an efficient way to take action on pertinent bills regarding Best Friends and animal welfare.

Advocacy enables people to speak directly with lawmakers and become a voice for animals that have no representation. You can sign up online to join the legislative action network, receive emails, and connect with other Utahns. 

Fighting breed-discrimination is another initiative of Best Friends that educates the public about breeds that are viewed as aggressive. Unfortunately, the media has given negative attention to pit bull terriers and other alike breeds because of their reputation in illegal dogfighting and aggressive behavior.

Eliminating breed-discrimination practices reduces the amount of dogs entering shelters that would be brought in from public enforcement and animal control groups.

BSL, which stands for breed-specific legislation, is a body of laws that aims to regulate breeds or dogs who resemble certain breeds, that are potentially dangerous. On Best Friend’s website, it said, “breed discriminatory legislation force many people to give up their beloved pets.” After such force, dogs are put into animal shelters and not adopted. 

Best Friends refers to BSL as a “misconception” and usually enacted “to ease fears over public safety, but these laws are ineffective and very costly.” 

In Utah, House Bill 97, signed by Gov. Gary Herbert, “protects pet owner property rights and allows responsible citizens to own any breed of dog they choose.” House Bill 97 was effective Jan. 1, 2015.

Events are held annually in Utah to offer community members the chance to get involved and show support for NKUT. Strut Your Mutt, NKUT Super Adoption, and training workshops and classes are happenings that occur throughout the year. 

Best Friends provides spaying and neutering as another resource to reach NKUT. All animals admitted to shelters have the procedure. This procedure is routinely done and requires minimal downtime for pets. Low cost and potentially free spays or neuters are offered to community members’ pets too, courtesy of Best Friends

Best Friends reports, spaying and neutering, “is one of the greatest gifts you can provide your pet, your family and your community” because it reduces the number of animals that initially enter shelters.

NKUT reported services will be provided “where they are needed most so that fewer animals go into shelters, and increase adoptions so that more animals are placed into new homes.” 

NKUT strives to ensure that all sheltered animals are given the gift of life. Communities in Utah are being called to action.

Now is the time to spread the word and “Save Them All.”