United Way of Central Virginia is a 501c3 non-profit organization that is working to advance Education, Income, and Health in our community by supporting programs, services, and collaborations. We are improving opportunities for our youth to succeed in school. We work to stabilize families through programs that reduce hunger, improve housing stability and reduce domestic violence. We are improving health care accessibility for individuals of all ages to improve health and wellness.
For over 90 years, United Way of Central Virginia has served as our community’s largest and most effective community solutions provider. We help you invest your dollars, your time and your best ideas in creating solutions to the issues our community cares about most. We do this by focusing on the building blocks of a good life – education, income and health. We all win when a child succeeds in school, when families are financially stable and when people have good health. United Way creates opportunities for a better life for all throughout Region 2000 – the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford, and Campbell and the city of Lynchburg.
To mobilize the compassionate power of our community to improve the quality of lives in Central Virginia.
The Roots of United Way
The concept of United Way dates back to 1887 in Denver, Colorado. With the tremendous growth of the city and increased needs of its poorer citizens, four clergyman and a laywoman decided to combine their efforts in responding to the needs of their community by establishing the Charity Organization Society. Its role was two-fold; one that created a strong social service system and the other that organized their fundraising efforts. Through this first activity the Organization coordinated relief services, counseled and referred clients to participating agencies, and made joint grant assistance to individuals who could not be served by a particular agency. In this second activity, the Organization also served as a collecting agent for a wide-range of charities and itself.
It was this community planning and collaborative fundraising roles that formed the foundation of the modern United Way. As stated in the late 1880s, the Charity Organization Society must not only be a means to collect and disburse a common fund, it must act in an advisory and supervisory direction in securing greater efficiency and creating greater effectiveness in providing services to the community.
As we moved later into the 1800s and early 1900s, United Way’s predecessor organizations were working to create joint planning activities that would respond to the critical issues of the day. These challenges included unregulated child labor, poor sanitation, tuberculosis, delinquency and overcrowded housing among other difficult conditions that developed as America became more industrialized. This, coupled with a joint fundraising effort that became more focused and distinct over time, is the basis of today’s work at the United Way of Central Virginia.
United Way in Central Virginia
For our community, United Way roots date back to 1921 when a group of community leaders established the Lynchburg Community Chest. D.B. Ryland of the Lynchburg Chamber of Commerce helped coordinate this effort with Floyd Knight, Richard Hancock, R.A. Owen, R.T. Watts, Jr., Giles Miller and M.O. Carruthers. The first community campaign took place in 1922 and raised $85,825.
While the initial years of the Community Chest focused upon fundraising, community planning was soon an important part of our work. In 1949, the Junior League organized and financed a group to study community needs on a year-round basis. Called the Lynchburg Community Council, it represented 76 health and social service organizations. The Council received funding from the Community Chest and then the two organizations merged in 1954 to become the Lynchburg Community Chest and Council.
The organization continued its work in identifying and responding to the needs of the community, but decided to change its name to the United Fund of Lynchburg in 1957. This was last name to include Lynchburg in its wording. In 1973, the organization changed its name to United Way of Central Virginia to reflect its work in serving the entire region.
United Way Today
Our community’s United Way is an independent, locally-governed and directed organization that has a proud history of serving the community in a manner that takes into account the needs of our area’s citizens first. Its history is a strong foundation upon which much has been achieved and much will be achieved as volunteers, community leaders, businesses, government, education, service agencies, and others work together to create results that change lives.