Finding purpose and inspiration in helping community members in need


Molly OlsonI grew up in Southeastern Idaho and have raised my family here. I pursued a degree ­­in psychology with an eye toward helping people. My area of chosen study was driven by my desire give back to my community through service.

I came to United Way of Southeastern Idaho five years ago.


I knew through my work here that I would be contributing to the communities of Southeastern Idaho. What I didn’t know was that I would find such purpose and inspiration in what I do every day.

Each year, United Way of Southeastern Idaho awards grants to local nonprofits in our region. During my tenure at United Way of Southeastern Idaho I’ve had the honor of overseeing this valuable and rewarding process. Each year I am filled with awe and gratitude for the donors that generously give and the nonprofits that tirelessly work to help our neighbors.

Bringing together diverse individuals in the spirit of a shared vision to improve the lives of our neighbors is what United Way was founded on. United Way began in 1887 when a woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together. While it sounds like the beginning of a bad joke these individuals recognized the need to work together in new ways to make Denver a better place to live. They created a central organization to collect funds for local charities and coordinate relief efforts. That year, they raised $21,700 for this greater good and created a movement that became United Way.

Every year individuals across southeastern Idaho generously donate what they can. They donate because they care about our community and neighbors; They donate so that this beautiful region can become a little bit better and a little bit brighter for struggling families; They donate because they trust United Way of Southeastern Idaho to invest their dollars back into the community.

I feel the weight of the responsibility to wisely invest our valued donors’ dollars in quality programs and services. To do this, I’m joined every year by volunteers that carefully review the grant applications and conduct site visits. These volunteers are the voice of our donors and are cognizant of the importance of their job.

Although it’s a serious job to invest responsibly into the community it’s also the most rewarding task I do each year. Myself, along with the community volunteers, are constantly amazed at what our local nonprofits are doing for our community. They are out there doing so much, sometimes with too few resources, to make sure families have a safety net. Those working in our nonprofits are truly the best of what our community has to offer. Their dedication, tireless work and commitment are inspiring.


I am so fortunate to be able to do what I do. I get up each day knowing that I am actively working to make our community better. I get to see the dedication of our donors, volunteers and nonprofit partners. It reminds me each day why southeastern Idaho is a special place unlike any other.


Molly Olson is the COO of United Way of Southeastern Idaho and has been a member of the United Way staff for the last five years. Molly leads the community investments process each year and helps local nonprofits apply for grants and community volunteers review the applications.