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Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. executive Arthur F. Hall, one of the founding members of what was to become United Way of Allen County, set out the philanthropic principle that has guided the region’s attention to human service needs for more than 80 years. “The entire community,” he wrote in a 1926 newspaper article, “volunteers assumption of the burden of charity. Relief cannot be given spasmodically. Welfare organizations must be continuously supported and on a scale sufficient to meet the needs of a community that is growing as fast as Fort Wayne.”
This strategy of a united effort to help people become self-sufficient led to the debut of the Council of Social Agencies in 1922. Since then, the group has changed names numerous times, often to address periods of specific need. It became the Fort Wayne Community Chest in 1925, Federated Relief Agencies Inc. in 1931 in the midst of the Depression, a member of the United War Chest in 1942, Allen County Community Chest and Social Planning Council in 1945, United Chest-Council of Allen County in 1956, United Community Services in 1963 and finally United Way of Allen County in 1972.
United Way of Allen County is one of approximately 1,800 United Way organizations in 45 countries and territories. Although all are members of United Way Worldwide, they are independent, separately incorporated and governed by a local board of directors.
In Allen County, United Way's nonprofit campaigns to raise money for various programs have risen from $124,813 in the organization’s first year to approximately $5 million. The number of agency partners – human service organizations that undergo standards and audit examinations – has grown from 19 to 34. And its offices have changed locations several times; in 2006, it moved from the historic United Way Building at 227 E. Washington Blvd. to the historic McCulloch-Weatherhogg House at 334 E. Berry St. Click here to download information about the McCulloch-Weatherhogg House.
More importantly, the organization has evolved to become more than a fundraiser. At its core is a mission to encourage collaborative planning and community human service action – to bring organizations, people and resources together to focus on critical issues.
United Way of Allen County was the first in Indiana to activate 2-1-1, an information and referral phone service that links people to various human services. And United Way of Allen County has been at the forefront of promoting all forms of diversity in the region, organizing Study Circles and programs to help people appreciate one another.
United Way of Allen County has also developed public-project campaigns that strive to make Allen County a better place in which to live and work. Volunteer-driven Day of Caring continue to prosper, sending out teams of workers to fix homes, groom properties and lift spirits. Each year, approximately 1,000 volunteers complete a variety of work projects.
And in 2008, United Way of Allen County launched focused Education Initiatives in an effort to ensure all local students succeed in school and life. We continue to build on successful programs such as School Buddies and Real Men Read, expand our Education Network to more than 16 community partners who serve children in Allen County and take a leadership role within the community and region for kindergarten readiness.
As it has for more than 80 years, United Way relies on the board of directors, staff and thousands of volunteers to carry out its many missions. Board members, staff and volunteers have included some of the brightest, most dedicated people in the community and have represented a diverse spectrum of interests, backgrounds and cultures.
The organization has been a trailblazer for equal opportunity. In 2002, Stephanie McCormick became United Way of Allen County’s first woman chief executive officer. In 2004, Frances Ganaway became the organization’s first black woman board president.
The Allen County organization has also been a collaborative regional planner. It is part of a collection of area United Ways called Northeast Indiana Consortium of United Ways/Funds that work together on various issues.
Remarkably, some of the same human service agencies that came under the umbrella of the Council of Social Agencies in 1922 remain United Way of Allen County agency partners today. Among them: Fort Wayne Rescue Mission and Salvation Army of Allen County.
Were he alive today, Arthur F. Hall would likely be gratified to see his vision still intact – one of a unified front in addressing the community needs that matter most.
His words in 1926 about Fort Wayne Community Chest are just as appropriate now as they were then: “No large community, with its complexities of modern city life, should try to conduct its welfare program without a central planning body of some kind. Putting all of the plans and budgets on the table is developing a habit of seeing the community’s problems as a whole. This is leading to real teamwork and to a feeling that all are united in the master task of lessening the ills of poverty, sickness and a crowded life.”