Utah Dream Center proves helping goes a long way

Story and slideshow by MELANIE HOLBROOK

Explore the Utah Dream Center

“Our dream is to see you live yours.” That is the slogan of the nonprofit organization Utah Dream Center, which was created to help community members fulfill their dreams.

Whether starting an arts program or a private elementary school, the organization located at 1624 S. 1000 West helps people get started so that more individuals can be assisted in the long run.

In 1998 husband and wife Alfred and Anna Murillo traveled to Los Angeles for a short-term mission project. Already involved with servicing their community, the Murillos brought with them 40 boys and girls to help out at one of the Los Angeles Dream Center’s programs.

Amazed by that center’s goals and projects, such as its after-school programs that provided activities for kids, the Murillos became inspired and knew Salt Lake City needed its own Dream Center.

In January 2000, Alfred and Anna launched the Utah Dream Center, modeled after the one in Los Angeles. With no help yet, the Murillos traveled throughout the U.S. in search of ideas and help from anyone interested.

With creativity and a U-Haul, the Murillos began to follow their dreams in June 2001. With the back of the U-Haul used as their stage they pursued after-school programs for any Glendale-area neighborhood kids who were interested in participating. Starting off simple, boys and girls could come hang out at the U-Haul after school for food and games.

With that, word spread fast. In February 2002 their U-Haul had become their very own facility that they still use today.

With their name already in the public, the Utah Dream Center was able to serve more than 400 kids in the first year.

“People had heard about what we were doing and wanted to get involved. People want to help out and contribute to making something of their community,” Alfred said in a telephone interview.

Over the years the Utah Dream Center has added at least 200 volunteers to their family. Alfred explained that there isn’t a payroll; the organization functions off the work of volunteers.

The Utah Dream Center stays running and thriving through its donors, volunteers and other sources that want to be a part of it. Out-of-state churches and businesses that have heard of the organization will send in donations.

Alfred explained that they’ve never purposely been in the news. The organization doesn’t believe in soliciting or asking people for contributions; people hear about the organization and want to donate.

“We work on helping kids around us, we’re not trying to make a big uproar,” he said.

“The other day I was getting my oil changed and during those 15 minutes we (the employee and I) started talking about what I do. He didn’t charge me for my oil change and handed me $250 because he wanted to help,” Alfred said.

He said it’s the goodness in people and their mentality that keeps their organization going.

Donations to the organization are given in various ways. Alfred said when he took his daughter to the dentist he again got to talking about his work. After listening, his dentist told him to bring kids in and he will work for free. Over the past eight years Alfred has taken in three kids while his dentist has put in thousands of dollars of service just so he can help others.

“Our dream is to see your fulfill your dream. We’re not asking you to make ours. When you help people it spreads a mentality, you want to help people when you’ve been helped,” he said.

Utah Dream Center has four programs in the Glendale area. Those programs are the Arts Academy, Open Door, Provisions for the Ministry and Mobile Medical. A director who came to the Murillos with his or her idea started each program. After discussion of their idea, the Murillos helped them get it started.

“The Open Door is held every Monday night. We’ll have chunks of different segments; half an hour for free time, time for reading and tutoring. We feed them a healthy dinner,” Susanna Metzger said in a telephone interview.

Metzger, the director of the Open Door after-school program, said on average 40 kids come every Monday.

The Arts Academy lets kids engage in music such as piano, drums and singing. The program also incorporates painting and drawing.

“My daughter has been going to Arts Academy for two years now. She’s 8 years old and is so bright — I thank the program,” Gabriela Hardy said.

“Hobbies such as piano or painting can make a child so much more well-rounded and determined to learn and grow at a young age. It shapes them,” she said.

The program Provisions for the Ministries delivers food and donates clothing to various churches every Wednesday.

Mobile Medical is stationed in the U-Haul the Murillos used back in 2001. This program was established to help community members who can’t afford certain medical help. Having it in the U-Haul makes it easier to serve more people.

Hardy isn’t one of the only fans of the organization. Richard Williams, a donor to the organization, said his son isn’t old enough for any of the programs but wants to get him in them when he’s ready.

“I found out about Utah Dream Center through my brother and donated soon after. An organization that helps people succeed in things they want to do, why wouldn’t I want to support something so great?” Williams said.

But community members aren’t the only people who have heard about the organization and want to help out.

Kyle Korver, a former player for the Utah Jazz, became involved with the organization. Korver would give Alfred 30 tickets to every Jazz game for any boys and girls who wanted to attend.

Real Salt Lake presented Alfred and his wife with the “Heroes Among Us” honor at a sold-out game. In the middle of the field, the Murillos were given jerseys with their names on them.

Alfred said one of the greatest honors was when “Good Things Utah” surprised him and his wife with a big metal key that would unlock the door to their new office. Utah Dream Center will be on “Extreme Home Makeover” where the organization will be given an entirely brand-new office; the episode is set to air in summer 2012.

The Utah Dream Center has expanded to help those suffering with problems such as gangs and drugs. There are now locations in Ogden, Provo and Kearns.

“You never know where helping people can take you,” Alfred said.