Utah nonprofits take their message to Capitol Hill

The Utah Nonprofit Association represents over 6,000 organizations. Forty of these organizations participated in the Annual Nonprofit Day on the Hill Thursday. (Photos by Kayla Goodson).

The Utah Nonprofit Association represents over 6,000 organizations. Forty of these organizations participated in the Annual Nonprofit Day on the Hill Feb. 11. (Photos by Kayla Goodson).

By Kayla Goodson

 Nonprofit organizations met at the Capitol Feb. 11 as part of the eighth Annual Nonprofit Day on the Hill.

Forty nonprofit organizations from across Utah participated in the event sponsored by Utah Nonprofits Association.

The event allows nonprofits to become more known and to connect with legislators according to Brooke Dimond, professional development coordinator of the association. Likewise, it is a good way for legislators to get to know the nonprofits they represent.

Representatives of the organizations started out their day at an orientation. They were then recognized in the Senate and House. Each organization then submitted their papers and spoke to their legislators. Nonprofits stayed in the rotunda to talk to any legislators they missed earlier, as well as to increase their visibility at the Capitol.

The Utah Infertility Resource Center, an organization that seeks to provide support, education, and awareness for those struggling with infertility in Utah, attended Nonprofit Day on the Hill.

The Utah Infertility Resource Center officially started in September 2015, so the center used this day to introduce itself, to explain its relevance to legislators, and to demonstrate how it can help constituents.

“Infertility in Utah is a very big topic because of our family-focused culture, so when people struggle with infertility here, it’s a big deal,” said Camille Hawkins, executive director of Utah Infertility Resource Center.

One in eight couples faces problems with infertility. The Utah Infertility Resource Center hopes to help ease these couples' pain.

One in eight couples faces problems with infertility. Brooke Walrath, left, and Camille Hawkins, right, of Utah Infertility Resource Center hope to help ease these couples’ pain. (Photos by Kayla Goodson).

Representatives from the organization spoke to five legislators throughout the day and considered their conversations a success.

“As we’re introducing our organization, most people go, ‘Oh, of course. This fits into this gap.’ You don’t really notice it’s there until somebody points it out,” said Brooke Walrath, the center’s director of education.

Hawkins and Walrath said the Utah Infertility Resource Center offers counseling, educational consultations, community events, and support groups to help those living in this gap deal with the social, mental, and emotional difficulties of infertility. They hope for large community involvement in their upcoming events, including their opening ceremony on March 5.

When Walrath started expressing her struggle on Facebook, she was surprised at the massive response from friends and family who were struggling with the same thing. Because it is a taboo topic in our society, people do not realize that many people they know have struggled or are struggling with infertility and have never mentioned it.

“A lot of people feel like they don’t have the space to talk about it, and we’re hoping to create that space,” said Walrath.

Utah State Fair Park was also in attendance. This organization’s goal is to give community service through educational opportunity and events – the main event being the State Fair.

Jeff Kooring, the Fair Park’s director of sales and marketing, explained that the organization attended the event to gain exposure to “as many legislators as possible.”

Nonprofits set up displays in the rotunda of the Capitol to gain the attention of legislators and the community.

Nonprofits set up displays in the rotunda of the Capitol to gain the attention of legislators and the community. (Photo by Kayla Goodson).

The Fair Park is experiencing economic hardships. The organization is a quasi-state agency that manages the fair park, and, because of its status as a technical private agency, it is having difficulties securing funds. The organization now has to ask for a “one-time” appropriation of $675,000 each year to maintain the state’s facilities.

Utah State Fair Park managers also spent the day lobbying for a lease extension. For the last three years, Kooring said, the organization has not had a lease, and no one has been able to vote on a bill to change that. When the lease ends this year, it will turn to a year-by-year lease, so there is an “unrealistic” but possible threat of canceling the fair at the end of this year.

There is a bill being presented to restructure the board this session, which is being sponsored by Sen. Kevin Van Tassle, R–Vernal. Sen. Luz Escamilla, D–Salt Lake City, also has a bill, which she may bring forward if she needs to back up the first bill.

“There’s a lot of hope,” Kooring said. “Last year, we didn’t think we had much hope, but this year I think there’s enough support that we can get things done.”

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