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25 years of giving the United Way


Last year marked the 25th anniversary of the United Way of the Quad Cities Area, and with it came the announcement of raising almost $7 million for health and human services for the Quad-Cities area.

Imagine the effort made by hundreds of volunteers to raise almost $7 million dollars in just a few weeks.

Early last fall, a fund-raising goal of $6.9 million was announced by officials of the United Way of the Quad Cities Area. By early November, the goal had been reached and surpassed by $78,315.

The facts are that one in five employees of companies that run United Way campaigns give to the United Way while one in three people receive United Way help through the 100-plus health and human service programs it funds.

``We have 1,300 volunteers from every aspect of the community who serve the United Way in some capacity,'' said Sonita Oldfield-Carlson, vice president of communication. ``We had more volunteers this year than last year. One example is of the fund volunteers who visit programs to review budgets, find out successes and bring recommendations to the board for discussion.''

``The beauty of United Way is that it has always been a volunteer-led group that brings people together to meet the multiple needs of the community,'' said Julie Brewer, vice president of resource development.

How did all of the volunteering and the United Way get its roots? It was in the 1890's and organized charitable giving was under way with the Women's Industrial Aid Society in Davenport. It was during World War I that the War Chest was conceived to address social service problems.

Then in 1925 in Rock Island the Community Chest campaign to raise support for social service programs began to grow. The next year, Moline developed a Community Chest.

However, it became clear to leaders on both sides of the Mississippi that community needs could be met by combining time and effort. In 1972, the United Community Services of Scott County and the United Community Services of Rock Island County decided to join forces and formed the new charter, United Way of Rock Island County and Scott County. The first fundraiser netted $1.7 million for 43 social service agencies.

Ten years later, in 1982, the name was changed to United Way of the Quad Cities Area to more accurately reflect the scope of services and the area served by the agencies.

``The money that is raised here, stays here,'' says Ms. Brewer. ``Our affiliation with United Way of America accounts for less than seven-tenths of 1 percent which goes to national. We receive much more in benefits than we could ever purchase ourselves.''

One year ago, a Strategic Planning Committee began working on a three-year plan. The seven goals for the next three years are:

-- Increase annual fundraising to fulfill community needs and advance the well-being of the community.

-- Support a funding philosophy responsive to United Way and its funded agencies.

-- Be recognized as a community example of meaningful volunteer service -- as an organization that places an emphasis on recruiting and retaining quality staff.

-- Strengthen United Way to mirror the community in all activities.

-- Develop capacity of member agencies to improve outcomes.

-- Enhance trust and strength of partnerships.

-- Maintain a favorable year-round awareness of United Way.

The United Way dollars most recently were allocated in the following percents: 18 percent to strengthen families; 6 percent to meeting needs of people with disabilities; 8 percent for a stronger community; 5 percent to meet seniors' needs; 16 percent to develop youth; 8 percent to prevent and address physical abuse; 4 percent to prevent and treat substance abuse; 9 percent for providing affordable child care; 17 percent to provide housing and emergency assistance; and 9 percent to promote health and wellness.

The Campaign 98 goal has not yet been set as the campaign begins after the Labor Day weekend. This year's volunteer campaign chairman will be Tim Wilkinson, vice president for ALCOA's Aerospace/Commercial Rolled Products.

NOTE: There are several other notable charities, foundations and give-aways in the Quad-Cities area which are too numerous to mention.

Several Christmas programs serve the Quad-Cities area including The Dispatch Good Fellow and Rock Island Argus Santa Fund, Salvation Army Christmas Assistance, Home for the Holidays, Milan Santa Fund, Toys For Tots, Share Joys Fund, Angel Trees, Christmas basket give-aways from various Quad-City area churches and other smaller programs from neighboring towns.

-- By Judy Meirhaeghe (February 9, 1998)

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