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Fred Fife: heart of the community

Meet...Fred Fife
Fred is a volunteer who is the dream of every NeighborWorks organization. There are few limits to what Utah resident Fred will do to “get it done” – ranging from running for state office, to bringing together unlikely partners, to getting his hands dirty while beautifying bike paths and “eyesore” properties.

Combine a civil engineer’s laser focus on “getting the job done” with a love for one’s community that will never allow a permanent move away, and what do you get? A volunteer who is the dream of every NeighborWorks organization.

Neighborworks-image-402Fred Fife first moved to the West Side of Salt Lake City from Southern California when he was 11 years old. And although he has moved to other parts of the city or out of state several times as the years went by, he always came back – permanently in 1970. He established his own engineering business in the neighborhood, and moved into the house next door to his parents’ original home.  For more than 30 years, he has applied the philosophy that made him a successful engineer to improving his community: “You succeed by figuring out what needs to happen, who needs to be at the table, when we need to get it done and what role can you play.” 

With the support and involvement of his family (including a daughter who also lives in the neighborhood), there are few limits to what Fred will do to “get it done.” He was appointed to the board of NeighborWorks Salt Lake, and served in both the state House and Senate. One of the keys to his success is his knack for forging unlikely alliances – between senior citizens and at-risk gang members, and developers and environmentalists.

Many of the projects that have benefited from this collaborative approach have focused on beautification of the community and transformation of under-used or “eyesore” properties into recreational assets. A case in point is the conversion of a former rail line into a pedestrian and bike trail that has the added benefit of connecting the east and west sides of the city – a split created by a freeway that divided the city in more ways than one. In another project, Fred designed an outdoor “urban tree house” that serves s a classroom for 500 disadvantaged school children every spring and summer.

His advice to others who want to try to walk in his footsteps? “Don’t be afraid to think big. Just be ready with lots of patience and optimism. You have to stick with it.”


2014 Dorothy Richardson Award Winners

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Gloria Zamudio: Be the Leader You Need

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