100 Years of Living United

Past. Present. Future.

Celebrating 100 years of funding good in the Kansas City region where we create impact and change lives for our neighbors in need. Here for good. Since 1918.

Since 1918, United Way of Greater Kansas City has served as a catalyst for meaningful and lasting change in towns and cities across our five-county region. We work tirelessly to improve the health, education and financial security of every person in our community... 100 years and counting.

1887

In Denver, a woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi founded the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fund-raising campaign for 22 agencies.

Today United Way is engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories, where people are powering big ideas and big action by donating, volunteering and speaking out through United Way. Our focus is on health, education, and financial stability—the building blocks for a good quality of life—impacting up to 50 million lives every year in these areas.


1918

Local work: Funding efforts were organized to help support World War I, called the War Relief and Allied Charities Campaign/United War Relief and Local Charities Campaign. There were 24 agencies. 13 of these were: Florence Crittenton Home, Helping Hand Institute, Della Lamb Center, Family & Children Services, Mattie Rhodes Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital, St. Anthony’s Home, St. Joseph’s Orphan Home, Richard Cabot Clinic, Spofford Home, Jewish Family & Children Services, Visiting Nurse Association, Whatsoever Community Center and Carver Center. News of the Armistice reaches Kansas City the day of the kickoff rally. Many of these original agencies are still partners with United Way of Greater Kansas City today.




1926

Raised $1,061,735 – first time we broke $1 million.

Campaign Chairman Milton H. Luce blocks off Petticoat Lane in downtown Kansas City and turns it into a football gridiron to monitor campaign progress.

1931

The Great Depression is in full swing and 50,000 Kansas Citians are on relief (now called welfare). When the Allied Charities Employment Relief Fund drive goes over the top, Campaign Chairman J.W. Woodmansee proudly wires President Hoover that Kansas City “will take care of its own.”

1938

This was the first year that school children took part in the campaign. Donation boxes to receive contributions from school children – public, private and parochial.

Charities Sunday was introduced.

1,363 boys and girls are provided care in children’s homes/orphanages.



1941

Kansas City Charities Fund name changed to Kansas City Community Fund on July 21st.

The Kansas City War Chest and United Community Funds are incorporated less than 72 hours before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

Official song: “Have a Heart for the Heart of America”, Copyright 1941, Cecil Taylor.

1943

North Kansas City became an organized component of the campaign.

1948

Name changed to The Community Chest. 

Independence, MO and the rest of Eastern Jackson County join the fundraising drive.



Official song: “Have a Heart for the Heart of America”, Copyright 1941, Cecil Taylor.

1950s

The words “United Way” appeared officially for the first time: “Give the United Way through your Community Chest.” 

1951

Kansas City’s needs increase with the 1951 flood, which required $8,000,000 in aid from the Red Cross. The Red Cross was a partner agency of the United Funds. The Korean War also increased the need for support.

1952

The Cancer Detection Center was established to offer free screening to anyone.

1954

This was the FIRST campaign to cross state lines for the entire nation.



1963

United Campaign finally had a permanent home, 320 E. 10th Street in KCMO. This building was purchased in June through a bequest from the estate of Samuel F. Smith.

1967

The 49-year-old Community Chest and the 17-year-old United Way Fund merge on September 14th. The new coalition, called Heart of America United Way Campaign, gathers 120 agencies in a collective fundraising drive.


1973

The NFL and the United Way establish their partnership to increase public awareness of social service issues facing the country.

Local officials adopt the national organization’s name, theme, and symbol. The Heart of America United Way is born in Kansas City on April 11th.

1975

Kansas City reaches a new plateau when $10 million is raised.

1977

A devastating flood hits the area and United Way immediately donates $250,000 for flood relief.




1981

During the summer, the Hyatt Regency disaster occurs and United Way donates $50,000 to help the victims. When winter brings frigid temperatures and soaring utility bills, United Way donates emergency assistance funds to help those unable to pay their bills.

1982

The boards of directors of Heart of America United Way and United Community Services unanimously vote to consolidate the two organizations.

1983

LOE - The loaned executive program begins. As of 1987, more than 50 corporations and organizations have loaned personnel to the program.




1984

Olathe United Way joins together with the Heart of America United Way Campaign to help raise funds in the five-county area.

130,000 households received emergency assistance – an increase of 30% from 1983.

1988

HIV/AIDS Support: United Way of Greater Kansas City has been a continual supporter of HIV/AIDS agencies since 1988. The first HIV/AIDS agency to receive support was The Good Samaritan Project.

1991

The homeless in our community needed over 235,000 nights of shelter.



2002

Caring Club is introduced and originates in Heart of America United Way. By 2003, Caring Club has 30,000 members.

2006

Don & Adele Hall donate $1,000,000 to the Heart of America United Way endowment. 2-1-1 is created and introduced in Kansas City.


2007

Heart of America United Way merges with Johnson County United Way, Bi-County United Way of Cass and Jackson Counties and Northland United Way Services. The new name is United Way of Greater Kansas City. 

2009

Partnership with KC CASH resulted in more than $5 million returned to local families via federal tax returns.  

United Way and H&R Block teamed up to provide MyFreeTaxes. 

2-1-1 received 155,880 calls, an increase of 14% from 2009.  

 


2011

Additional $605,000 in special grants from United Way of Greater Kansas City to local nonprofit agencies help people impacted by the economic recession. 1 in 3 KC area families have been helped by or involved in programs funded by United Way of Greater Kansas City.

United Way of Greater Kansas City partners with the City of Kansas City, MO to launch Project Rise. This program offers paid internships and educational help to young and unemployed high school dropouts.

Named managing partner of the Urban Neighborhood Initiative, part of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce’s Big 5.


2012

Tocqueville Society celebrates 25 years in Kansas City.

2013

The Dolly Parton Imagination Library program begins in Kansas City through United Way of Greater Kansas City. Each month, the program mails books that are high quality and age-appropriate to the homes of children up to the age of 5. The goal is to enroll 5,000 young readers by 2020.



Published May 22, 2018 All News
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