A History of United Way for Southeastern Michigan

We have a long history of building relationships to improve lives and communities— take a look back and see where we've been.

1887

1887

In Denver, religious leaders create the Charity Organizations Society, the first "United Way" organization, which planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fundraising campaign for 22 agencies.

1912

Charities Organizations Society begins in Oakland County.

1917

Charities Organizations Society becomes the Detroit Community Union forms to coordinate and promote social services, such as child care, family, health, recreation and community planning.

1935

1935

The American Federation of Labor officially charters the United Auto Workers, which helps establish fair labor practices, better wages and a rising Middle Class.

1942

As a result of WWII, Detroit Community Union’s fundraising arm, Detroit Community Fund, becomes the War Chest.

1945

WWII ends, causing the War Chest to become the Community Chest of Metropolitan Detroit and the Detroit Tigers win the World Series!

1949

1949

United Foundation is established as an independent organization to raise funds for human service organizations through the Torch Drive campaign. Detroit becomes the first major city to organize a United Way fundraising drive. To bring attention to this new workplace campaign effort, the organizers build a wooden structure in the median of Woodward near Jefferson with a torch at the top.

1949

Pontiac United Fund is incorporated.

 

1951

Council of Social Agencies of Metropolitan Detroit and the Community Chest become United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit, which provide planning, fund distribution, and information and referral services.

1969

1969

A 60-foot metal torch is constructed and placed at 1 Woodward as a permanent symbol of the Greater Detroit campaign, replacing the wooden torch structure that had to be constructed and taken down each year. The torch was sculpted by Dario Bonucci and serves as “a symbol of the concern and generosity of the community.” It signaled a beacon of hope during a time of civil unrest.

1973

1973

Pontiac United Fund becomes United Way of Pontiac-North Oakland and adopts the United Way national logo.

1974

1974

United Ways located in the United States and Canada raise $1,038,995,000 — the first time in history that an annual campaign of a single organization raises more than $1 billion.

1987

United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit and United Foundation, the independent organization that was created to raise funds through the Torch Drive campaign, move to a joint location in Detroit.

1989

1989

United Way of Pontiac-North Oakland becomes United Way of Oakland County.

1995

United Foundation and United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit merge to United Way Community Services.

1995

1995

The Atlanta Committee chooses United Way of America, along with local chapters, to serve as the primary provider of community support and volunteer services for the 1996 Olympic Torch Relay. 

1996

United Way of America identifies a strategic plan to focus on healthy children, healthy families and healthy communities.

2005

The boards of United Way Community Services and United Way of Oakland County vote to create a new organization – United Way for Southeastern Michigan.

2005

2005

Michigan 2-1-1 is launched in December. This free, confidential service connects people seeking help with local community-based organizations across the state offering thousands of programs, resources and services to build healthy, safe communities.

2007

The United Way Financial Stability Partnership™ is introduced. The national initiative empowers low- to moderate-income people to achieve long-term financial stability. United Way’s annual revenue tops $4 billion for the first time, continuing its status as the nation’s largest charity.

2008

2008

United Way Worldwide adopts its “Live United” tagline while United Way for Southeastern Michigan adopts the “Agenda for Change” – a ten-year plan to make a measurable impact on the greater Detroit region by ensuring everyone has greater access to Education, Income and Basic Needs resources.

2008

In partnership with Detroit Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), United Way for Southeastern Michigan launched 5 Greater Detroit Centers for Working Families (CWF) sites, offering budget counseling and career training opportunities.

2008

United Way for Southeastern Michigan's Board of Directors set a goal of turning around or shutting down 30 high schools in Greater Detroit where the senior class size had dwindled to 60% of what it was as a freshman class for three consecutive years. Local schools that were committed to achieving graduation rates of at least 80% were invited to apply for a Turnaround Challenge. This initiative was named the Turnaround Schools.

 

2008

2008

The United Way for Southeastern Michigan Early Learning Community (ELC) model was piloted as a way to give parents and caregivers additional tools to positively impact the growth, education and health of young children. To date, there are more than 60 ELCs where more than 23,000 caregivers have been served.

 

2009

The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund (DRWF) is formed with private and public investors with United Way for Southeastern Michigan to support collaboration among employers and workforce development partners, focusing on green jobs, the hospitality industry and the health care sector.

 

2010

2010

The GM Foundation made an unprecedented donation of $27.1 million to activate a second class of Turnaround Schools, named the GM Network of Excellence.

 

2011

2011

In Southeastern Michigan, more than 300,000 children rely on free- or reduced-price school meals. In response, United Way for Southeastern Michigan starts its summer meal programming. In its first year, UWSEM serves 724,912 meals to children in the region.

2011

The Detroit Regional Workforce Fund launched the Detroit Talent Hub, the Detroit Green Skills Alliance and the Detroit Jobs Alliance 2013.

 

2012

The United Way brand celebrates its 125th anniversary.

2012

United Way for Southeastern Michigan launches six Community Financial Centers (CFCs) in Greater Detroit to assist families in getting back on the path to financial stability by focusing on affordable financing options and financial coaching.

2013

2013

500 more students who historically would’ve dropped out of high school under the status quo, graduate from our Turnaround High Schools.