Neil Folks named Bill and Nancy Muldoon 2021 Humanitarian of the Year
For Craig Press
Neil Folks was dumbfounded when he was told he would get the Bill and Nancy Muldoon Humanitarian of the Year award last week.
Folks isn’t the sort of person who does a good or kind act just for his own recognition. He does it because he wants to make a difference, even if it’s just in one person’s life.
He helps people because he felt God wanted him to do so. He helps people because he feels this is just the right thing to do.
“When I retired from the Utah Division of Wildlife in 2000, I didn’t want to just fish on the creek bank every day,” Folks said. “I wanted to do something productive.”
So, he was floored to learn he would be receive this year’s local Bill and Nancy Muldoon Humanitarian of the Year award, which Folks was given during a celebration Wednesday evening at the Visitors Showroom at the Chamber of Commerce.
“The people who created this award were just great, so to be able to walk in their footsteps is very honoring and humbling for me,” Folks said.
It’s almost easier to say what Folks hasn’t done for the community in the last 20 years. He acts as a spiritual mentor for various people, but he particularly has focused on crisis advocacy as his passion.
Folks has worked with prisoners locally as well as children at the local elementary school. He has always been a great listener and over the years, and has learned that most people he encounters just need someone to listen to them.
“When I worked with the Division of Wildlife, I worked with a lot of college students and would get asked a lot of questions about the father/son relationship,” he said. “I found out these kids were being told they wouldn’t amount to anything. But by working with them for a summer, things would work out really well.”
That’s when Folks learned he was not only a great listener, but also enjoyed working with young people, especially those who weren’t on the best path in life.
He has regularly worked with people struggling with addiction, and noted many of them had trauma from their childhoods that weren’t being properly dealt with.
“People don’t want to be fixed, they know what’s wrong,” Folks said. “They don’t want to be told a bunch of psychological terminology, 90% of them just want to be heard by someone.”
As a farmer’s son, Folks was regularly told growing up by his father, “Less talking, more listening,” a lesson he took to heart at an early age. The hours he spent on the tractor in the fields gave him an appreciation for the outdoors, something he uses as a recharge when the world gets too dark.
“During my spiritual training, I was taught how to deal with a lot of the painful situations and unload it, so sometimes you just need to go out in nature and let it out,” he said. “I like to get my dog and go out there sometimes. It helps.”
But unsurprisingly, the last year (and a cancer diagnosis that put him through radiation and chemotherapy) has put a halt on Folks’ humanitarian work, at least for the most part. However, he isn’t the type of person to just completely quit helping others.
He still has a couple people he mentors, talking with them a couple times a week over the phone. Folks added he was always willing to listen to anyone who needed to talk, and anyone who called him would get a kind man who just wanted to hear their stories.
But don’t worry, he still gets the chance to go out and fish.
“I’ve worked with people, then not seen them for four to five years, and I’ll run into them and they’ll tell me I saved their life,” Folks said. “What could be more satisfying than that?”
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