On the heels of celebrating a successful 2022 annual campaign, United Way of Story County is beginning its 70th year of providing leadership and support to those in need in our community. Raising over $2 million is certainly something to celebrate, and we are grateful for the support Story County continues to give each year.
Many changes have taken place over the past 70 years – our name, the organizations we help support and communities that participate – but throughout those years United Way of Story County has remained an organization that focuses on identifying local needs and working collaboratively to improve the lives of Story County residents.
United Way of Story County is an organization that has been part of our community since 1953. Named the Ames Community Chest, volunteers set the goal for the very first campaign at $27,925. The community surpassed that goal and raised $38,864. Pretty impressive for 1953, but even more so since the contributions were gathered by volunteers that went door to door. Those in the community who wanted to contribute left their porch light turned on, so volunteers knew to stop and collect their gift.
The organization has come a long way since 1953. The first Board of Directors Chair was Mortimer Goodwin. The original board was made up of 21 members: 19 men and two women. For the next 18 years the leadership of the board continued to be a man. It was in 1971 that United Way of Story County elected the first woman to chair the Board of Directors. That year Esther Whetstone led the organization, and Verle Burgason chaired the campaign which raised $133,000. It was also around that time that the organization became the Ames-Gilbert United Way. In 1985, the name changed again to United Way of Story County, John Kleinschmidt chaired the Board and George White served as chair of the campaign raising $375,500.
Today United Way of Story County is an organization that works daily to fulfill its vision of improving the quality of life in our community for individuals and families. United Way makes an impact on the community and in the lives of those who are served by the programs supported by your contributions.
The campaign has changed a great deal from the early days of door knocking. Today we have over hundreds of campaigns operating throughout Story County. As you can imagine that takes many volunteers. There are now four leadership circles: traditional Leadership and Women United which recognizes gifts of $1,000 or more, Tocqueville Society, which recognizes gifts of $10,000 or more, and Young Leaders Society, which focuses on donors under the age of 40 giving at $250 or more annually.
It was in 2003 that the Board of United Way seriously began discussing the future of the organization and answering the questions, “Will United Way be here tomorrow? What about ten, fifteen, sixty years from now?” At that time, the Board wanted to be sure that United Way was assured a future so that we would still be able to accomplish our vision of improving the quality of life for individuals and families in Story County.
To meet future challenges a permanent endowment fund for United Way was created through the Story County Community Foundation. The Endowments current totals are over $800,000, and the most exciting thing is that its annual income is already helping us address critical, unmet needs.
We can improve the situation of others because people throughout Story County have taken it upon themselves to be strong leaders throughout the history of United Way of Story County. Thank you for you for giving, advocating, and volunteering so that our community can continue to LIVE UNITED.