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Holidays are a Time for a Hand Up

by Jon Pierpont, Executive Director, Department of Workforce Services

This time of year our thoughts turn inward as we recall what we’re grateful for, but they also turn outward to the needs of others. We see an outpouring of generosity from thousands of Utahns in the form of helping at soup kitchens, volunteering for various causes, and donations of food, clothing, or toys for children.

While it is our duty to reach out to help those in need, I believe we can enrich our experience helping others if we change the perception of exactly what that means. Let me explain with a brief story. Russell Flowers is a resident of Kelly Benson Apartments, a supportive housing complex where formerly homeless Utahns live as part of our Housing First program. In a recent conversation, Russell said the program that helped him get off the streets and obtain employment is “not a handout, but a hand up.” I believe this sentiment aptly captures the mission of Workforce Services, and the attitude we should all have when helping others.

We’re in the business of helping people, but to truly make a difference we must do far more than provide temporary assistance. By empowering Utahns with the tools to achieve their own success - like education or training, job searching resources, or removing barriers to employment - we can help them find their feet again. This puts them on a path toward economic self-sufficiency that is ultimately what we desire for all Utahns.