About Us

What Is United Way?

Story Time:

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together. It sounds like the start of a bad joke, but they didn't walk into a bar; what they did was recognize the need to work together in new ways to make their city a better place. In Denver, they created the nation’s first united campaign, raising funds for 10 health and welfare agencies and beginning a movement that would later become United Way.

In 1915, right here in St. Joseph, Missouri, two ministers, a rabbi and a Catholic bishop joined business leaders to hold the first recorded meeting of the St. Joseph Federation for Charity and Philanthropy (commonly referred to as the Community Chest, a name that would officially change in 1933). These leaders met to plan an annual charitable campaign.

Their first community-wide campaign took place in June 1916 and raised $25,414.14 in contributions and pledges. As part of the campaign, eight different charities received a share of the proceeds: the Associated Charities Work Room, the Baby Welfare Association, the Humane Society, Riverside Home, Sheltering Arms, the Tuberculosis Society, the Visiting Nurses Association and the Wesley House. The distribution of these funds reflected an emphasis on health care and services for children.

By 1923, the Federation added six new agencies to its list of partner charities including YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, The Salvation Army, Red Cross and Travelers Aid. With these additions, they could add recreation, character-building and emergency assistance to its list of funded services.








After World War II, the Community Chest members embarked on a massive educational effort. Volunteers from Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and YMCA delivered information to every household. They even decided to change the process of distributing funds or the allocations process. Allocations recommendations would no longer be made by a select committee, but the process would be a more inclusive, broad-based citizen's review.

In 1957, St. Joseph community leaders wanted a single, all-encompassing campaign and, with that, the new United Fund incorporated the Community Chest agencies along with the American Red Cross, the Green Cross, United Cerebral Palsy, the Mental Health Association and the U.S.O.

Then, in 1975, the United Fund officially became United Way of Greater St. Joseph. The name change allowed the organization to maintain local control while gaining the benefits of joining a national organization with name recognition. That year, the United Way of Greater St. Joseph saw its first $1 million campaign.

Today, St. Joseph is ranked #27 out of all 1,100 United Ways across the nation in per capita giving. Our community has always valued caring for one another!

For more than 100 years, United Way of Greater St. Joseph has been led by individuals working together to improve lives in our community.  We raise funds from thousands of donors, investing the dollars in agencies, programs and services in our community.

Every day, right here in Northwest Missouri and Northeast Kansas, area lives are improved through education, health and financial stability to meet immediate needs and to address underlying causes of problems. Thanks to people who support United Way of Greater St. Joseph and to wise operational practices, donor dollars are invested in 17 local Partner Agencies and seven United Way Initiatives. You are invited to LIVE UNITED along with us by giving, advocating and volunteering. Together, we aim for lasting, positive change in people's lives. Together, we are the caring power of community.