The United Way of Wyoming Valley is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year. In honor of this milestone, Bill Jones, President and CEO, is sharing the nonprofit’s fascinating history. We’ll look back on how they’ve served our community over the years and continue to create opportunities for a better tomorrow.
A Century of Serving the Wyoming Valley
Imagine waking up on this date exactly 100 years ago and picking up the morning edition of the Wilkes-Barre Record newspaper. In it, you would read an article that reported that yesterday, October 11, 1921, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce voted to approve a resolution that created an entity called the Community Welfare Federation. At that time, you might not have been sure what that was or why it might be have been needed, and you probably wouldn’t have imagined the impact this action would have on the future of the Wyoming Valley.
The Community Welfare Federation was created to consolidate all fundraising appeals into one annual drive, and the entire community was encouraged to support it. The proceeds of this drive would benefit many of the charitable causes that helped those in need. It was the forerunner of what we know today as the United Way of Wyoming Valley.
The very first campaign, chaired by prominent banker Ross Lloyd, was held in November of 1922. Campaigning in those days consisted of thousands of volunteers canvassing neighborhoods and knocking on doors throughout the Wyoming Valley. The first campaign raised an impressive $258,878.
The 1920s roared on, and the organization was finding its footing. With the stock market crash in 1929 and the start of the Great Depression, however, the Community Welfare Federation struggled in the 1930s as unemployment rose and the need for support also increased.
With the start of World War II, fundraising efforts in the 1940s focused on both the needs of the community and support of the war effort. Our community was nationally recognized for our contributions to the United Services Organization (USO), which assisted members of the Armed Services and their families. In 1947, the Community Welfare Federation changed its name to the Wyoming Valley Community Chest. The Labor Participation Department was added the following year because of organized labor’s commitment to charitable giving and community service.
The 1950s were a time of advancement and promotion for the Wyoming Valley Community Chest. The organization even held “Red Feather” parades to draw attention to the start of Community Chest campaigns. The Community Chest then became the Wyoming Valley United Fund in 1956 to better organize fundraising efforts in the area. The parade continued to draw big crowds.
The United Fund flourished into a fundraising force in the Wyoming Valley in the 1960s. A “Loaned Executive” program was created in 1966, as well as The Women’s Council to further support the work of the organization.
The early history of the United Way is very interesting. The organization saw many name changes and efforts to be organized and efficient. In the next blog, I’ll explain why even more changes occurred after the Agnes Flood of 1972. Until next month, thanks for reading.