United Way celebrates 100 years helping metro area

ALTON — The United Way of Greater St. Louis is celebrating its100-year anniversary of helping the community.

United Way of Alton merged with United Way of Greater St. Louis in the early 2000s.

Serving on the board of United Way’s Southwest Illinois Division, Tom Berry has been a longtime volunteer for this division that oversees United Way’s efforts in Madison County; his grandfather was campaign chair for United Way of Alton in the 1960s and his father was instrumental in the merger.

United Way of Greater St. Louis President/CEO Michelle Tucker said this is only the beginning for the organization.

“This year is a very special milestone in recognizing our local United Way’s impact in building a strong safety net for our region throughout the past century,” Tucker said. “Now, we have the opportunity to build on our legacy to launch the next century of helping people.”

Initially called the Community Fund, the organization began in 1922 to offer a simple, unified approach for supporting multiple nonprofits. In its first annual campaign, businesses and residents raised $1.1 million for 40 local charities. Today, it supports more than 160 groups in 16 counties in Illinois and Missouri, raising more than $67 million last year.

Tucker said that over its100-year history the local United Way has raised and invested nearly $3 billion into hundreds of groups and programs.

“Our United Way continues to be one of the top ranked United Way’s in the nation for fundraising, a true testament to the generosity and passion of this region,” said Keith Williamson, 2022 board chair for United Way of Greater St. Louis and president of Centene Charitable Foundation. “This is certainly a year to recognize the commitment and tireless work of thousands of donors, staff and volunteers, through many challenging periods in history, to raise billions of dollars to help people in need. Everyone in our community should be proud of this accomplishment.”

Tucker said United Way is even more committed to helping people with critical wraparound services that support five priorities: essential needs, youth success, jobs and financial security, health and wellbeing and crisis response. She said United Way’s experience and strong partnerships position it to advance how people and families receive health and human service in the future. 

“We are now able to marry technology with high-touch services that will be a game changer for helping people,” she said. “Our goal is to not just support single needs here and there, but to look at health and human services as a whole and help individuals and families along a path to success.”

To celebrate its anniversary, United Way is encouraging people to visit HelpingPeople.org and share their hopes for the region over the next 100 years.

“This year is not only a celebration of our 100 years; it’s a call to action — a time to look at where the need is today and how we can be most effective in creating a stronger, healthier and more equitable St. Louis community,” Tucker noted. “We are looking forward to our next 100 years and what we will accomplish together.”

United Way of Greater St. Louis key dates and highlights:

• 1922: Then called the Community Fund, a group of local businesses and leaders raises $1.1 million for 40 charities. 

• 1933: What is now known as the Volunteer Center launches led by two women. The center now connects more than 20,000 residents annually with groups and causes seeking volunteers.

• 1942: United Way raises more than $5 million in one year.

• 1955: St. Louis city officials and 43 companies introduce payroll deductions for employees to donate to the United Fund. Today donors include more than 90,000 people at more than 1,000 companies.

• 1975: The group changes its name to the United Way of Greater St. Louis.

• 1978: United Way of St. Clair merges with United Way of Greater St. Louis, followed by additional affiliate mergers.

• 1987: United Way forms the de Tocqueville Society honoring supporters who give $10,000 or more annually. The group now numbers , more than 8,000 through six leadership groups.

• 1993: United Way raises and invests $1.8 million for victims of the Great Flood of 1993. 

• 1994: Charmaine Chapman becomes the first African American and first woman president and chief executive officer. Her legacy lives on through the Chairman Chapman Leadership Society, a group of more than 600 African American leaders who give $1,000 or more through United Way’s campaign.

• 2004: United Way introduces online giving software for corporate campaigns.

• 2007: United Way 2-1-1 launches enabling people to find help through a mobile app, text service and online chat. The service now aids more than 120,000 each year.

• 2018: United Way introduces its custom strategies, launching new ways for companies to partner to meet their corporate social responsibility goals. 

• 2020: United Way releases a comprehensive, region-wide Community Needs Assessment and community investment strategy to align funding decisions with identified needs.

For more information, contact 314-421-0700 or visit www.HelpingPeople.org.   



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