Learn more about our history.
It just might inspire you to help us build a better future.
For more than 125 years, United Way has evolved to meet the needs of the times. Today, the world needs United Way more than ever.
In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers, and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. The Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J. O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases that could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the world to become the United Way. Over 130 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.
In 1918, the Hagerstown chapter of Daughters of the King began collecting money to help local charities support disabled veterans returning from World War I. In 1923, a group of community leaders came together to raise money in an annual appeal to support several local charities. This effort lasted a few years and discontinued until the mid-1940s when World War II and once again returning veterans needed help from local charities. This effort to meet the need became the Hagerstown Community Chest. In 1957 the Hagerstown Community Chest incorporated as a Maryland nonprofit corporation under the name The United Fund of Washington County, MD. Over the years more and more local charities received money from the annual United Fund appeal. In 1974 as part of a national renaming, the organization became the United Way of Washington County, MD. Many local business and community leaders supported and led the United Way. The United Way of today evolved to meet the demands of a modern and changing society. Today, United Way focuses on health, education, financial stability, and basic needs through program grantmaking rather than direct agency funding.