Ninety years ago, a group of Memphis volunteers which had been operating with the working name of The Community Chest Federation formally incorporated as The Memphis Community Fund. This important first step led to the creation of an organization that has focused on improving the lives of people living in the Mid-South. (See listing at the end of this article for a history of United Way’s names through the years.)
William Wachs served as the first President of the organization, with J.A. Reichman as Chairman of the Board and L.M. Stratton volunteering as the General Campaign Chairman. The trio held these positions through 1927.
That first year, the organization supported 21 participating charitable agencies. The first campaign fundraising goal was set at of $450,000. By the end of the campaign they had surpassed the goal by more than $30,000. It was clear to all that the Mid-South had much to gain from an organization conducting a collective charitable fundraising effort.
Through the years the organization has worked to impact the quality of life for people across the area and supported a large list of local nonprofit organizations. While an annual campaign is still a very important part of the organization’s work, it is also involved in numerous efforts to streamline systems and help more people obtain the fundamental building blocks for a good quality of life: education, financial stability and health.
Throughout the year United Way of the Mid-South will provide historic stories about our 90 years of caring and we look forward to creating great moments and memories in 2013. Our thanks to all volunteers – past and present – for their support of United Way.
Info list: Historic names of United Way of the Mid-South
1923: The Memphis Community Fund
The organization was incorporated in 1923 as The Memphis Community Fund by a team of local volunteers which had informally called itself The Community Chest Federation during the planning stages in 1922.
1942: The Memphis and Shelby County War and Welfare Fund, Inc.
During World War II, President Roosevelt’s War Relief Board asked local charity appeals to merge with wartime appeals to create one fundraising campaign.
1946: The Memphis Community Fund
After the war, the organization reverted to its earlier name.
1947: The Memphis and Shelby County Community Chest
During the national recovery after the war, the organization changed its name to reflect its work in Shelby County, outside of city limits.
1959: Shelby United Neighbors
A fundraising partnership with The American Red Cross called “Shelby United Neighbors” which started in 1957 proved so popular that the organization changed its name to match the drive.
1972: United Way of Greater Memphis
Shelby United Neighbors merged with the Health and Welfare Planning Council and changed its name to reflect this new arrangement. Local community chest organizations started to use the “United Way” name in the early 1970s to benefit from national advertising leveraged by United Way of America, and the local organization did likewise.
1994: United Way of the Mid-South
To better highlight the work performed to help neighboring states and counties, the organization changed its name to United Way of the Mid-South. Today, the organization serves four counties in Tennessee, one in Arkansas, and three in Mississippi.