A century of helping others: A 100-year timeline of the United Way of the Midlands

Originally Published: April 23,2023

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A century of helping others: A 100-year timeline of the United Way of the Midlands

1923 – Local citizens and community leaders banded together to create United Way of the Midlands’ prototype, The Community Chest. We were, and still are, dedicated to responding to the community’s needs, by investing dollars in local health and human service programs that make the most impact. In our first year, funds were allocated among 32 participating nonprofit agencies. 

1920s – From the beginning, a strong network of human services was essential to address interconnected needs in our community. For decades, we called the members of this network “Red Feather” agencies. The Red Feather was part of fundraising and campaign efforts, and organizations receiving UWM funding proudly displayed a red feather as a symbol of this partnership. 

1933-34 – With the introduction of federal relief programs, The Community Chest temporarily shifted its focus to those unable to receive government aid. The organization’s 1934 annual campaign lasted 10 days with a goal to raise $554,800. 

1940s – Women of the metro have always played an important role with UWM, raising funds and identifying issues for our collective attention.

1941 – Built upon a mutual desire to create a better, stronger and more vibrant community — a partnership was established with the Omaha Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO to work together and strengthen the metro area for generations to come.  

1950 – Omaha was one of the few communities to pioneer a national model for a single organization dedicated to all facets of nonprofit fundraising and program investment…and the organization started calling ourselves United Community Services. 

1966 – “Volunteerism” was added to the organization’s mission, increasing opportunities for the community to participate in supporting our cause.

1972 – The “Citizen of the Year” award was established to recognize individuals for their commitment and dedication to our community.  

1975 – We officially became “United Way of the Midlands.” 

1987 – UWM combined forces with United Way of Council Bluffs to expand fundraising efforts in the greater metro area, and also created a partnership with the Combined Health Agencies Drive (CHAD). 

1987 – The Tocqueville Society was established. The charter group included 12 members whose vision and belief in the community spurred others to join and give. 

1998 – The Court-Referred Community Service Program (CRCSP) was created. This program, with support from Douglas County, refers criminal offenders to agencies for completion of judge-ordered community service. 

2002-10 – UWM’s 211 Helpline expanded from four counties in 2002 to covering the entire state by 2010. In 2003, the 211 Call Center was accredited for the first time by the Alliance of Information & Referral Systems, and in 2010 the State of Nebraska funded 211 to take “Safe Haven” calls.

2012 – A committee of local leaders explored the area’s needs and UWM’s role in the community. This led to a transformational strategic plan that called for expanded fundraising and the establishment of an open grant process — allowing more nonprofits to apply for funding and partner with UWM to meet defined goals and community needs. Since this reset, UWM’s strategy continues to evolve through community-led strategic plans every three years. 

2015 – The Corporate Partners of the Year awards were established to recognize organizations that go above and beyond to support UWM and our community. 

2019 – Senator Mike McDonnell made funding for the 211 Helpline his priority bill in the Nebraska Legislature and created a public-private partnership.

2019 – During the catastrophic flooding, UWM worked to help with aid and recovery efforts — raising over $1 million and making statewide pay-outs, setting up a temporary call center for FEMA, taking disaster reports for NEMA and more.  

2019 – JAG Nebraska is established in collaboration with Governor Pete Ricketts and the State of Nebraska. An evidence-based, for-credit classroom elective, JAG helps students develop skillsets to overcome barriers to graduation — while setting them up for success in the classroom, workplace and life. 

2020 – UWM partnered with the Omaha World-Herald to administer the Goodfellows program. Also in 2020, we expanded our partnership with MUD and OPPD through the 211 Helpline for utilities assistance and secured CARES funding for housing stability needs. 

2021 – UWM partnered with the Metro Area Continuum of Care for the Homeless (MACCH) in the distribution of the City of Omaha’s $22 million grant from the U.S. Department of Treasury Emergency Rental Assistance fund. These funds helped Omaha citizens who needed rental and utility assistance due to the pandemic.

2022 – Through a partnership with Mayor Jean Stothert and the City of Omaha, UWM was selected to distribute $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to agencies in the metro area. 

Today, UWM continues to serve our community by bridging the gap between the business and not-for-profit sectors to create a Circle of Support that helps our neighbors overcome difficult challenges and start building a better future. For fiscal year 2022, UWM raised $36 million to support programs and direct services that address social and economic disparities and meet families’ essential needs such as healthy food, safe and stable housing, physical and mental health services, career preparation and job training.

Read the original article here.