United Way History

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization 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. More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.


In Denver, religious leaders 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.


First United Way campaign in Denver raised $21,700.


Charitable institutions became exempt from the first federal act that imposed a tax on all corporations organized for profit.


The nation’s first modern Community Chest was born in Cleveland, where a program for allocating campaign funds was developed.


Executives of 12 fund-raising federations met in Chicago and formed the American Association for Community Organizations (AACO), the predecessor to United Way of America.


Rochester, New York, used the name Community Chest, a name widely adopted by United Way organizations and used until the early 1950s. This year began a 10-year growth period in the number of Community Chests: 39 in 1919; 353 in 1929.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg History


United Way of Greater Williamsburg began and was known as the “Community Chest”.  The campaign goal was $6,825 and the campaign lasted one week.


The campaign benefited eight agencies with a goal of $7,099 


United Way Information and Referral Helpline was established to help local residents with referrals to services and some financial support.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg partners with 22 agencies that support 39 programs with a campaign goal of $1,850,000

UWGW adopted the message “LIVE UNITED”, which asks community members to join hands, open hearts, and think of “we before me”.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg is recognized by the Senate, the House of Delegates concurring, that the General Assembly commends the United Way of Greater Williamsburg on its 60 years of service to the community.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg and the local church groups discussed adding a volunteer component to the United Way Information and Referral Helpline (I & R).  In August of 2010 there was a Resource Center and an I & R office.


The I & R and Community Resource Center merged into one space and worked together to assist residents.  From this point on it was referred to as The Community Resource Center.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg Administration office relocates to New Town thanks to the generosity of Leebcor Services Inc., which subsidizes the rent of the new location.

United Way of Greater Williamsburg started a Re-Entry House Pilot Program made possible by a partnership with Sister Agnes and the Sisters of the Franciscan Brethren.  This program provides stable housing for individuals coming out of jail and re-entering into the community. While staying out a “Guest House” the clients are surrounded with services and assisted in finding a job or attending school while paying off fines.


United Way of Greater Williamsburg moves The Community Resource Center into a new location at 113 Palace Lane, Suite F, to provide more room for additional   in-house partners and waiting room space for clients. The new building was made possible by the generosity of building owner George Polyzos.

The Re-Entry Housing Program is continued and expanded to two male houses and one female house with a total of 10 beds through a grant from the Department of Criminal Justice.

The Greater Williamsburg Housing Collaborative started March of 2013 when a few housing and basic needs service providers were meeting to talk about hard to house individuals.  We placed our first tenants in July of 2013.


The Greater Williamsburg Housing Collaborative transitioned to the Home for Good program operated United Way of Greater Williamsburg.  The UWGW Board of Directors approved $500,000  of funding over a three year period for the success of the program staring July 1, 2015.  As of March 2016, the program houses 49 individuals, 28 of whom of children.

In September 2015, United Way of Greater Williamsburg expanded their United for Food food distribution to West Point, VA.  At first, the distribution was at different locations as availability permitted and communicated monthly as to where it would be located.  Starting January 2016, United Way partnered with the West Point Armory as the permanent location for the year.  The building allows clients to be in out of the weather and have a seat as they wait.