On October 25, 1925 the Board of Directors of the Welfare League signed a contract with the Community Chest. The nonprofit organization was then incorporated in May 1931 and the name “Community Welfare Council and Community Chest” was adopted. These two pen-to-paper moments sparked the 95-year legacy that is Valley of the Sun United Way.
During the war years, the organization became known as the “War Chest of Phoenix,” focusing on World War II community needs. In 1971, the organization joined thousands of affiliate agencies throughout the U.S. that were becoming “the United Way,” and adopted the name “Phoenix/Scottsdale United Way.” Ten years later, the Phoenix-Scottsdale United Way and the Westside Communities United Fund merged and the name, Valley of the Sun United Way, went down in history.
Although our name has changed over the years, what has remained a constant is a deep understanding of the critical issues facing our neighborhoods and a strong desire to find the right solutions. We are the nexus of our community, the connector to solutions that continue to change lives.
From the beginning, partnerships have been at the heart of our work, with some relationships enduring almost a century. In 1931, when the “Chest” raised $100,749 it supported more than ten charities, with several of these organizations partnering with us today including: Catholic Women’s Club, forerunner of Catholic Charities; Council of Jewish Women, now known as Jewish Family and Children’s Services; YMCA and YWCA; and Phoenix Day Nursery (now Phoenix Day Child and Family Learning Center).
Through each decade, our history highlights United Way’s commitment to addressing the most pressing needs of our community and taking action during a crisis. Evidence of this can be traced back to one example in 1976, when the “Phoenix/Scottsdale United Way” provided a grant for a Maricopa County-wide swine flu vaccination program to help protect Valley residents during the epidemic of the time.
Flash-forward to the present day, as we are now adjusting and responding to the current health and financial crisis brought on by COVID-19. Even though the challenge has a new name our commitment remains the same. We’re going back to our roots to serve our community when they need us the most.
In March, as the state of Arizona took action to address the pandemic, our organization quickly mobilized resources and relationships to ensure our health and human services and education nonprofits/school partners could continue to meet the urgent needs of Maricopa County’s most vulnerable individuals, children and families.
Earlier in the year, United Way launched five 2020 Priorities to strategically build a Five-Year Impact Agenda. Throughout development of the priorities and planning, we remained true to the guiding principle that we “open up” United Way to our community. The decision to listen and learn, so our efforts could focus on urgent needs, could not have come at a more critical moment to activate solutions during this unprecedented time.
United Way has a history of strategic planning. In 1986, the Board of Directors, under the leadership of Leonard Huck, President and CEO of Valley National Bank (now Bank One), developed an action plan that set new benchmarks to be achieved by 1991. In 2010, a ten-year Community Impact Plan was launched, with a new vision and a major shift away from the traditional pass-through fundraising model to a greater emphasis on programs that have direct community impact.
In the spirit of continuity with our past, we look towards our future. United Way’s next Five-Year Impact Agenda will be publicly unveiled at our 95th Anniversary Celebration in March of this year. We will be rolling out large-scale virtual events, throughout the year, to accomplish the following:
Since the beginning, our organization has held a deep understanding that “alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” As time marches on, so does our mission. Join us, as we create history together and continue the extraordinary legacy that is Valley of the Sun United Way.