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United Way of America History

In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers, and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. 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. Over 118 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in the lives of others.


1887:

In Denver, religious leaders founded the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fundraising campaign for 22 agencies.

1888:

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

1894:

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

1913:

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

1918:

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.

1919:


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.

1948:

More than 1,000 communities had established United Way organizations.

1971:

United Way of America moved from New York City to Alexandria, Virginia.

1973:

The NFL and the United Way establish their partnership to increase public awareness of social service issues facing the country. In addition to public service announcements in which volunteer NFL players, coaches, and owners appear, NFL players support their local United Ways through personal appearances, special programs, and sitting on United Way governing boards.

1974:

United Ways raised $1,038,995,000 in America and Canada — the first time in history that an annual campaign of a single organization raised more than $1 billion. United Ways undertook with the National Football League (NFL) the largest public-service campaign in the nation's history; a major part of that campaign was Great Moments, the televised United Way/NFL public service announcements.

United Way International was formed to help nations around the world form United Way-type organizations.

1981:


United Ways raised $1.68 billion, a 10.1 percent increase over the previous year. This figure represented the largest single-year percentage increase.

1982:

United Way of America's new National Service and Training Center opened in August, increasing the organization's ability to assist the nation's 2,200 United Ways.

1987:


United Way recognized its centennial by saluting the America volunteer through many programs, including dedication of a United Way postage stamp by the U.S. Postal Service.

1991:

During the Persian Gulf War, a fully staffed Operations Center at United Way of America worked closely with other organizations to ensure that those in need received help.

1993:

A national conference on Block Grants, hosted by United Way of America, provided valuable insight to nearly 250 attendees on the past and future performance of block grants, focusing on their implications for United Ways, their agencies, and the people they serve.

The corporate community is increasingly demanding easier, more cost-efficient ways to process workplace campaigns. The Board sees these resolutions as the first steps in ensuring that United Way continues to be the premier workplace fundraiser because of its ability to change to better meet customers' needs through the use of new technology.

1994:


United Way of America was selected by Financial World magazine as the charity of choice in 1994 for its leadership in not-for-profit ethics and accountability.

1994 marked the first year of United Way of America's Quality Awards, modeled after the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Awards. These awards recognize United Way organizations that demonstrated measurable progress in customer satisfaction, accountability, and productivity. United Way of Allegheny County, Pittsburgh, PA, United Way of the Piedmont, Spartanburg, SC, and United Way of Southeastern New England, Providence, RI, were the first recipients of this prestigious award.

1995:


The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) announced its selection of United Way of America and the United Way system as the primary provider of community support and volunteer services for the1996 Olympic Torch Relay. In its role, United Way was responsible for assisting ACOG with the selection of torchbearers, organizing community celebrations to greet the arrival of the Olympic Flame, and coordinating volunteers for those functions.

United Way of America's Board of Governors unanimously approved the adoption of Strategic Direction for United Way: Charting the Path for Building Better Communities.

1996:


United Way ofAmerica developed two Internet products, United Way Online for local United Ways and a website for the general public.

In October of 1996, United Way of America identified healthy children, healthy families, and healthy communities as focus areas under thestrategic plan.

1997:

United Way of America and the United Way system were asked by the organizers of the Presidents' Summit for America's Future to join with them in leading the selection process for the 1,400 delegates from 140 cities across the nation. The focus of the Summit was to help youth through volunteer efforts.

1998:


In 1997-98 campaigns, United Ways collectively raised $3.4 billion, boosting revenues by more than $150 million for a 4.7 percent increase over 1996-97 levels.

Get Involved

Plymouth Community United Way

960 W. Ann Arbor Trail, Suite 2
Plymouth, MI  48170
Phone:  734-453-6879