Happy 100th, United Way, and let's continue the journey

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: February 16 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:42 am in

By Jack Evans and Matt Evans


Today marks the 100th anniversary of United Way in the Cedar Rapids community.

Generation after generation has responded to ongoing community needs over the last 100 years. And as we are celebrating the organization’s 100th birthday, we understand the importance of all of us working together. That’s why we are honored to volunteer together as campaign chairs for United Way’s milestone campaign.

United Way of East Central Iowa has held several names. United Way has remained responsive by adapting to challenges such as The Great Depression, World War II and the flood of 2008.

When it started in 1914, the organization, first known as United Charities Campaign, raised almost $25,000 in a one-day campaign and supported four social service agencies.

The amount raised then equals more than a half-million dollars today. In 2014, the campaign supports more than 40 partners, runs all year long and has raised $10 million each of the last seven years.

Historical highlights

United Way responded to the needs brought on by The Great Depression by raising funds for unemployed workers and their families.

During World War II, the name changed to the Community War Chest, and solicitations ran in the newspaper: “Some must fight; others must work and give,” and “Your War Chest dollars fight for final victory. Make your gift as big as the job.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, the organization grew to support 29 agencies and expanded to include the surrounding towns of Marion, Hiawatha, Robins, Central City and Springville. Soliciting began in the workplace of major employers, allowing employees to donate through payroll deductions.

By its 75th year, United Way was known by its current name: United Way of East Central Iowa. It was estimated that nine out of 10 local people will be touched by a United Way funded agency in some way during the year. In the mid 1990s, a record number of volunteer hours were pledged during the KCRG-TV9 Volunteer-A-Thon, and hundreds of volunteers participated in United Way’s Day of Caring — a day for local businesses to give back to the community by allowing employees to volunteer for non-profits projects during company hours.

In the 2000s, United Way raised $10 million for the first time, and since 2007 has raised more than $10 million each year. The money stays local and benefits the community.

After the Flood of 2008, United Way stepped up and organized hundreds of volunteers to help with recovery efforts, and created a Flood Recovery Fund that raised more than $1 million to help agencies. That same year, United Way implemented the “community impact model,” focusing on finding solutions for community issues in Education, Financial Stability and Health. In 2013, more than 20,000 donors gave to United Way and more than 500 companies participated in the United Way campaign.

During the past 100 years, United Way has raised more than $228 million, funds that have helped thousands of our friends, neighbors, colleagues and family members. Generation after generation has stepped forward, pledged support, and offered time, talent and treasures. Speaking of generations, as a father-son team we decided to volunteer for United Way as campaign chairs.

We want to celebrate this monumental year as father and son to help celebrate the last 100 years and continue the journey together for the next 100. Several other multigenerational donors are joining us in connecting the past with the future in honor of United Way’s centennial year.

Please consider joining us throughout the year as we celebrate United Way of East Central Iowa’s 100-year anniversary in the community.

l Jack Evans is president of the Hall-Perrine Foundation. Matt Evans is Professional Liability Practice Leader at TrueNorth Companies. Jack can be reached at jackevans@hallperrine.org. Matt can be reached at Mevans@truenorthcompanies.com. Visit the website for more information: www.unitedwayofeastcentraliowa.org.


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