History of United Way

United Way Worldwide

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address welfare problems in their community. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman founded the Charity Organization Society, which coordinated services and fundraising for 22 agencies. The Charity Organization Society was created to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies and make 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. Over 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.

The first Community Chest was founded in 1913 in Cleveland, Ohio, following the example of the Jewish Federation in Cleveland, Ohio, which served as an exemplary model for "federated giving.” In 1918, many Community Chest organizations, which were founded in the first half of the twentieth century to jointly collect and allocate money, joined the American Association for Community Organizations. In 1948, Walter C. Laidlaw merged the Community Chest and other Detroit charities to form the United Foundation. By 1963, and after several name changes, the term United Way was adopted, but not everyone chose to use it. After Walter C. Laidlaw fell ill, William Aramony became CEO of the national governing body which was known as the United Community Funds and Council of America (UCFCA) and in 1970 the organization was renamed United Way of America (UWA). In 1971, United Way of America moved from New York City to Alexandria, Virginia in 1971. In May 2009, United Way of America and United Way International were integrated as one global entity, United Way Worldwide.

United Way of Southeast Alaska

United Way of Southeast Alaska was formed in 1974 as an independently governed, 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Incorporated in 1979, United Way of Southeast Alaska's primary purpose is to address individual needs and improves lives by organizing the caring and collaborative power of our communities. In 1984, United Way of Southeast Alaska became one of 1,300 nonprofit United Ways in the United States. Each United Way is operated independently and governed by a local volunteer board of directors. Along with the addition of several local non-profit organizations over the past 40 years, United Way of Southeast continues to serve several of its original partner agencies, such as the Aiding Women in Abuse and Rape Emergencies (AWARE), Boy Scouts of America (Great Alaska Council) and the Glory Hall.