In 1887, in response to the city’s problems, religious leaders in Denver came together to plan the first united campaign on behalf of 10 welfare agencies. This effort formed the Charity Organizations Society and was the first “United Way” organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fund-raising campaign benefitting 22 agencies. The organization served as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well coordinated relief services, counseled and referred clients to cooperating agencies, and made emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. More than 125 years later, United Way remains one of the most powerful ways for individuals and corporations to make an impact on local health, education, and social service needs.
More than a Monopoly game piece…
1913 - The nation’s first modern Community Chest was born in Cleveland. In its first campaign there was no dollar goal, only a goal to involve as many contributors as possible. More than 6,000 individuals and organizations responded and the benefits of a collective volunteer effort were realized. These volunteers were the first in the county to set up a volunteer-driven system to study human care needs, distribute and monitor their use which became the model for United Way organizations across the country.
The people of Elkhart County have big hearts. In 1922, the “Heart of Elkhart Club” ran their first fundraising campaign. With posters that boasted “Relief & Human Service” they raised $37,200 and helped six local charities. “Everyone should have a part because the fortunate must be considerate and care for those less fortunate”-publication from 1928.
In 1950 the Community Chest merged with Elkhart Health & Welfare Foundation to create the United Fund. During this time the term “united way” became popular as a campaign motto, “Give Gladly the United Way”. In 1972, the United Fund of Elkhart County officially became United Way of Elkhart County.
While times have changed and Elkhart County is very different from the community it was in the 1920’s, some things have not changed. United Way of Elkhart County continues to advance the common good for all people in our community. We focus on helping particularly those who are working hard but falling short through our efforts in EDUCATION, INCOME and HEALTH. We are committed to engaging the community and providing tools, services, and expertise that can enable individuals and families become stronger and more independent.
Elkhart & LaGrange Counties
After a year of exploration, the Boards of United Way of Elkhart County and United Fund of LaGrange County voted to merge to form the United Way of Elkhart & LaGrange Counties in 2019. Our newly expanded organization seeks to better mobilize human and financial resources; to create lasting, measurable change that improves people’s lives in Elkhart and LaGrange Counties.