Schae Richards, community editor

This summer, Cache Valley Family Magazine created an Outstanding Community Service Award in conjunction with this year’s Best of Cache Valley Awards to honor an organization or individual who is making significant contributions to our community through their time, talents, and dedication.

Belva Hansen of Smithfield is the first-ever recipient of the Cache Valley Family Magazine Outstanding Community Service Award. An educator, philanthropist, and a true advocate for children, “Belva sees children and people as individuals,” Esterlee Molyneux, executive director of The Family Place, said. “She is passionate and dedicated to ensuring all children are loved and cared for.”

Belva said she always knew she was an educator because of the example her mother set for her. “[My mother] served as a Relief Society president. She had a great sense of humor. She was a teacher. She taught second grade and when it came time to retire, they begged her to stay because she was so good.”

Belva left her home in Wyoming to attend Utah State University (USU). “I always knew I would get an education, and I was a natural teacher,” she said. “I was always teaching.”

She met the love of her life, Delbert Hansen, at USU. Belva and Delbert were married in 1948, and had four children: Dell Loy, Randy, Denise, and Meridene.

Belva graduated from USU in 1950 with a degree in education, and went on to teach English and advise the yearbook staff at Sky View High School for 18 years.

When asked to share a memorable moment from her teaching career, Belva recalls a time when she helped develop a program to help students who couldn’t read at the high school level. “We had phenomenal success in helping kids who didn’t excel in reading. We were one of the top 10 in the nation for our program.”

Belva said she didn’t set out to become involved with The Family Place, and says, “it just happened.” Her involvement with the organization began in 2009 when she received Esterlee’s contact information from her hairdresser and subsequently invited her to speak in her Sunday School class.

From then, she was committed to the organization and helped raise funds for their new building in Logan, which was named in her honor.

When Belva and Esterlee met, The Family Place was called The Child and Family and Support Center, a name Belva said was confusing and hard to remember.

“The best service I did for this organization is to say, ‘There’s nothing you can do with that name; change it,’” Belva laughed. “They came up with the perfect name: The Family Place.”

The Family Place is truly a place for all families. “The mission of The Family Place is to strengthen families and protect children. Parents love their children so much and want to do their very best for them. The Family Place supports this effort by offering therapy, family education, and 24-hour Kid’s Place care (planned and emergency care for children),” Esterlee said. “We are able to build on the strengths of parents through workshops, classes, family-friendly events and our national Trauma Resiliency Project. We coach and mentor parents as they work to overcome past and present challenges. Whether it be parenting, depression, anxiety, working through traumatic experiences, divorce, abuse, or trying to figure out how to be most successful in life — that is what The Family Place is all about. We are here for literally every family in our community. Everyone is welcome.”

Esterlee said she is honored to have known and worked with Belva over the years.

“I consider Belva our guardian angel,” she said. “For some reason, when our paths crossed, I felt like it was meant to be. [Belva] has energy; she has wit; she has belief in family and family systems; she is a stalwart advocate for children and is action oriented. She has one of the kindest hearts of any person I know. She’s always looking to help and support, and always so genuine and humble.”

Belva said her family is “everything.” She says that education has always been one of her core values as a parent, whether it was teaching her children to eat healthy or having them be involved with activities or the community.

Belva recently celebrated her 90th birthday with her family and friends, and also with the community at Belva’s Big Band Birthday Bash, hosted by The Family Place.

She said her secret to a happy life is to simply enjoy it. “I’m always happy, and or at least seem to be, because it’s so miserable otherwise,” she said. “I just refuse to do that.”

Belva lives by the motto, “Life is fun.” She enjoys reading, going to soccer games, and of course, spending time with her family.