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A priest, two ministers and a rabbi...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

United Way's roots are no joke


Staff Writer

Seriously, it's true -- a priest, two ministers and a rabbi joined forces in 1887 to plan the first united campaign for 10 health and welfare agencies in Denver.

These four clergy (Rev. Myron Reed, Msgr. William O'Ryan, Dean Martyn Hart and Rabbi William Friedman) created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies and make emergency assistance grants.

They raised $21,700 in 1888 for 22 agencies.

This was the precursor to the organization known today as the United Way.

Now, 123 years later, the United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in lives.

In 1894 laws were passed making charitable institutions exempt from the first federal act imposing a tax on all corporations organized for profit.

In 1918 the executives of 12 fundraising federations met in Chicago and formed the American Association for Community Organizations (AACO). This was the predecessor to the United Way of America.

The next year this group used the name Community Chest for their operation. This name was widely adopted by United Way organizations and used until the early 1950s.

By 1948 more than 1,000 communities had established United Way organizations.

Putnam County's United Way was formed in 1967 under the name The United Fund of Putnam County. It was filed with the resident agent listed as Mary Evelyn Goodhue and the first three board members were Ben Cannon, Richard Sunkel and Robert O'Hair. Their office was listed as 14 S. Indiana in Greencastle

In January 1968 the group filed an articles of amendment under James Poor, President. Their board meetings were taking place at the Public Service Building at 12 S. Jackson St.

In February 1975 under president John Zeiner, the name of the corporation was changed to the United Way of Putnam County, Inc.

Around this same time, giving a great boost to the national organization was a partnership with the National Football League (NFL) to increase public awareness of social service issues facing the country. Additionally, public service announcements with NFL players, coaches and owners appeared. Those same people supported their local United Ways with special appearances and joining the organization's governing boards.

The next year, United Ways raised $1,038,995,000 in America and Canada. This was the first time in history that an annual campaign of a single organization raised more than $1 billion.

The group also undertook the largest public-service campaign in the nation's history with their "Great Moments in history public service" announcements.

That same year, United Way International was formed to help nations around the world form United Way-Type organizations.

In 1982 the United Way of America's new National Service and Training Center opened in August, increasing the organization's ability to assist the nation's 2,200 United Ways.

The organization's first female and Asian-American, Elaine L. Chao, was chosen as the United Way of America's president and chief executive office in 1992.

The next year the United Way was very involved in a national conference on Block Grants, focusing on the implications of them for the united Ways, their agencies and the people they served.

In 1994 United Way of America was selected by Financial World magazine as the charity of choice for its leadership in not-for-profit ethics and accountability.

That same year the organization began giving out the United Way of America's Quality Awards, modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. These recognized United Way organizations demonstrating measurable progress in customer satisfaction, accountability and productivity.

In 1995 the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (OCG) announced its selection of the United Way of America and the United Way system as primary provider of community support and volunteer services for the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. They were responsible for assisting ACOG with the selection of torchbearers, organizing community celebrations to greet the arrival of the Olympic flame and coordinating volunteers for those functions.

By 1996 the UWA developed two Internet products, United Way Online for local organizations and a Web site for the general public. Next the group was asked by the organizers of the Presidents' Summit for America's Future to join them in leading the selection process for the 1,400 delegates from 140 cities across the nation. The focus of this Summit was to help youth through volunteer efforts.

Just two years prior to the turn of the century the United Ways and the NFL celebrated their 25th Anniversary becoming the longest running sports/charity public service campaign of its kind. They also raised $3.4 billion.

The year 1999 saw contributions from the Bank of America Foundation for $50 million over five years to local United Ways in 22 states. Bill and Melinda Gates donated $10.5 million to support the organization's goals that same year.

Within the last 10 years the organization has embarked on a national brand strategy differentiating the United Way as more than a fundraising group but rather as a leading community impact organization.

This was apparent in 2004 with their response to the devastating hurricanes that ravaged Florida.

The United Way was a lead responder in identifying the most serious needs in the devastated communities and responded to thousands of phone calls directing victims to services such as shelters, food, medical assistance, disaster preparedness and response activities, post-disaster assistance and recovery information.

This change was never more apparent than in 2008 when Putnam County was declared a disaster following massive flooding. They were named as the fiscal agent for a huge Lilly Endowment fund to help the Indiana counties affected by the floods.

If it weren't for the United Way, Putnam County would not have received $261,000 from the Indiana Disaster Fund. And, more funds may still be coming.

This year the United Way of Putnam County is trying to raise $175,000 to fund the 15 agencies and 14 youth groups it supports. They are close to their goal, but need another $30,000.

Individuals, organizations or businesses interested in helping the United Way meet its goal can contact English at 653-5638 or by e-mail at unitedway@airhop.com.

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