NEPA Forecast snow 34°F


Community , Community Projects

United Way of Wyoming Valley – The Past 50 Years

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 Look Back at 1971-2021

As the United Way of Wyoming Valley celebrates our 100th Anniversary, it is a great time to continue to reflect on our wonderful history. Last month, I reviewed our founding and first 50 years. The Great Depression and World War II shaped our early years that saw three name changes, eight executive directors and a real growth in fundraising during the fifties and sixties.



By the 1970s, the United Fund of Wyoming Valley was thriving. In 1972, the wrath of Hurricane Agnes tested the strength of our ability to care for one another. Agnes created the largest natural disaster in our nation’s history up until that point in time. The community responded, and the agencies supported by the United Fund went above and beyond to help those who were devastated by the flood.



Shortly after the flood, the United Fund changed its name to the United Way of Wyoming Valley, and just five years later, the campaign topped $2 million for the first time. Six years after that, in 1984, the campaign topped $3 million as The Alexis de Tocqueville Society was founded for donors giving above $10,000 per year.

In 1991, the United Way of Wyoming Valley partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health and began funding services for individuals with HIV/AIDS. Popular programs like Success by Six and our annual Day of Caring also began in the nineties. These programs are still a very important part of the work we do today. Towards the end of the decade, the National AFL-CIO recognized the partnership between the United Way of Wyoming Valley and the local labor movement as one of the best in the country in working together to address human service needs.



As the nation grappled with the September 11th terror attacks, our United Way established a special fund and participated in a regional telethon that raised nearly a quarter-million dollars for the victims of 9/11. The following year, a generous gift of a $1 million “Challenge Grant” from the Sordoni Foundation helped establish an endowment for the organization. The “Challenge” was met, and the endowment continues to be a key resource for the United Way today.

In 2014, the United Way of Wyoming Valley adopted a new model of service and focused on the increasing percentage of children living in poverty. Childhood poverty more than doubled in a 12-year span, and more than one in four children in the Wyoming Valley are growing up in poverty. The new Community Impact model, known as Poverty to Possibility, was a transformational change that prioritized the education and health of children, the financial stability of families and basic needs for those who face an immediate threat to their well-being. This new framework also changed how agencies were funded and opened the door for new partnerships to help at-risk children and families.



The United Way of Wyoming Valley’s focus on childhood poverty is a long-term strategy that, among other goals, will attempt to improve graduation rates over time. To do so, a great deal of work starts at birth. Our new partnerships target brain development, health and safety, kindergarten readiness, grade-level reading, school attendance, summer learning and much more.

In part three of this series, I will share our vision for the future. Until next month, thanks for reading.

Related Articles & Stories

View All Community Projects


Find Your Next NEPA Adventure

View All Things to Do