United Way celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2012! This organization started in Denver in 1887 when a priest, a rabbi and two ministers founded the Charity Organization Society, the first United Way. These religious leaders recognized a need for cooperative action to address the city’s welfare problems. During this time, welfare as we know it today did not exist. The first campaign raised $21,700, a huge amount for that time. In the ensuing years, the concept of fund raising to support charitable organizations spread across the country and took many forms- Community Chest, Red Feather, United Fund, until in 1948 United Way organizations were established in more than 1,000 communities, including Berwick.
History of the Berwick Area United Way: The Berwick Community Chest’s first fund drive was in 1924, the first corporate pledges were made in 1932 and payroll deduction was introduced during the 1930’s. During World War II, Berwick’s Red Feather Society supported war efforts and took its name from the military tradition which awarded red feathers for bravery. The Society was not renamed United Fund until 1953. Then in 1973, United Fund became the United Way. In 2010 United Way of America changed its name to United Way Worldwide. With all these changes the function of the organization never changed- fund raising to support charitable organizations. Over the years the organizations supported by the Berwick Area United Way have varied slightly but not drastically: Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, the library, the YMCA, then women’s shelters and Big Brother/Big Sister as those programs developed. Eventually the Red Cross and the Salvation Army came on board and most recently, Columbia Child Development, Mental Health Association and the Children’s Museum.
United Way needed to be able to tell donors what their donations accomplished in the community! We needed to know what the community felt its greatest needs were and we needed to work with our partner agencies to set goals for change in those needs. We needed to be able to show an impact in the community as a result of our work. As defined by United Way, community impact is three parts- first, fostering positive, measurable community change. Second, assessing community needs, discovering the community’s agenda, and working with a variety of partners to create results. Third, mobilizing our community to create lasting changes in community conditions so that lives are improved. Nationally, United Way is working to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks of a good life: education, income, and health.
At the Berwick Area United Way, we are held to rigorous accounting and management standards to ensure that your donations are handled in accordance with all regulatory requirements. Our financial statements are audited each year by an independent auditing firm.