Skip to main content

History

Where it all began.

All over the country, there are thousands of people helping other people. They, like you, are volunteers. For hundreds of years, volunteers have made a difference in the lives of people who needed a helping hand. The spirit of caring for our fellow human beings is part of our heritage and part of the mission of United Way.
 
United Ways have built a proud record of meeting community needs, but they couldn’t have done it without volunteers – individuals who volunteer where they work, individuals who volunteer to help United Ways raise and distribute funds and resolve community problems, and individuals who volunteer to serve with agencies either on their boards or providing direct services.
 
But how did it all start? What is United Way, and how does it work? United Way concept of planning and funding community health and welfare services got its start in Denver in 1887. In that year, Denver was plagued by welfare problems, the result of 20 years of rapid growth. During the previous two decades, Denver’s population had skyrocketed from 5,000 to 100,000 – a dramatic increase even by today’s standards. Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish leaders joined forces to organize fundraising to meet the needs of the poor. With this, the United Way concept was born, bringing groups and individuals together in the community to care for one another.
 
For more than a century, United Way organizations have been meeting the needs of people, and in that time, we have all seen many changes come about causing subsequent changes in the types of services provided. The tidal wave of immigration early in the century, the World Wars, the Roaring 20s, the Great Depression, the post-War years of prosperity followed by the War on Poverty all had a significant influence on how United Ways responded and cared for those in need. Whatever the situation called for, United Ways were there anticipating needs, mobilizing their communities, and providing help where it was most needed.

United Way organizations grew in popularity because they offered a unified approach to problems, reduced the number of appeals from local charities, and allowed people to support a wide range of service, with one gift. Despite a common commitment to helping people, United Way organizations went by a host of names. You may be familiar with some of them: Community Chest, Red Feather Campaign, Good Neighbors Fund, Torch Drive, and United Fund. In fact, it wasn’t until the early 1970’s that the majority of these organizations adopted one common name, United Way.In 1887, Denver was plagued with welfare problems; the result of 20 years of rapid population growth. Community leaders joined forces to organize fundraising efforts to meet the needs of the city.

With this, United Way concept was born – Mobilizing organized groups and individuals to work together and care for one another by planning and funding health and human services.

United Way organizations grew in popularity because they offered a unified approach to problems, reduced the number of appeals from local charities, and allowed people to support a wide range of services with just one gift.

 

United Way Today.

Today, United Ways go far beyond the tasks of raising and distributing funds. They help leaders from the public and private sectors resolve community problems. United Ways also offer management assistance. They find out what an agency needs to function more effectively. They then refer business volunteers with appropriate skills to work with the agency. By looking ahead and planning carefully, United Ways can anticipate needs and respond quickly.
 
There are hundreds of community-based United Way organizations throughout many countries and territories, each run by local citizens. While they are similar in many ways, they are tailored to meet the needs of their own communities. Contributions to United Ways result in financial support for agencies and service groups providing human care services.
 
Through our Allocation Process, United Way’s community volunteers carefully analyze local needs, as well as social and economic changes in the community before thoroughly reviewing the agency’s request for support. The volunteers then make tough decisions regarding which needs are most critical, and allocate funds based on the impact they have on addressing those needs. To be considered for United Way funding, each agency must meet a number of important standards, including but not limited to the following; agency must provide a human care service that meets an important need in the community, be governed by a board of volunteers, be legally recognized as a not-for-profit organization, comply with New York State (not-for-profit) audit guidelines, and operate at a reasonable cost.
 

What is United Way Worldwide?

United Way Worldwide’s global network provides the foundation for increased community impact in all communities. It consists of interdependent capabilities distributed at the global, regional, national and local levels, strengthened by centers of excellence. United Way Worldwide is a recognized nonprofit leader in building a stronger and more vibrant community. United Way Worldwide is the leadership and support organization for the network of community-based United Ways. We envision a world where all individuals and families achieve their human potential through education, income stability, and healthy lives. 
 

Are United Ways related?

We’re one of 1,800 community-based United Ways around the world – each separately incorporated and independently governed by local volunteers. Money raised here, stays here. Because United Ways can
sometimes be more efficient and effective together, United Way Worldwide provides support and helps maintain national consistency on matters that affect all United Ways. In exchange for guidance, training and development services, each local United Way, including ours, makes a membership investment in United Way Worldwide (one percent of each contributed dollar. United Way Worldwide does not have input on how local United Ways invest their contributions.
 

What is United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area?

United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area is an independent, volunteer-led, locally governed, non-profit organization that has been serving the people of the Mohawk Valley since 1921. Our United Way began as the Utica Community Chest on November 1, 1921. Founding executives included Fredrick T. Proctor, Warnick J. Kernan, and Frank X. Matt. Our United Way addresses the root causes of key issues, is accountable for stewardship of resources, and is accountable for short-term and long-term results. Our United Way staff partners with community volunteers to best serve the Valley and Greater Utica Area with Board of Directors, Campaign Cabinet, Allocations Panels, and several committees, made up entirely of local volunteer experts and professionals.

Since 1921, we have gone above and beyond the tasks of raising and distributing funds. We help leaders from the public and private sectors develop agendas, prioritize community needs, and find solutions in the most effective ways. After distributing funds, we work with our funded partners to make sure outcomes are being met and impact is being made throughout the community. By looking ahead, working hard, and planning carefully, United Way can anticipate needs and respond quickly.

Although we have successfully raised funds for services each year, community needs usually exceed available funds. Help us continue our work, donate today.