History of United Way

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On March 4, 1921, at a meeting in city hall, 22 Lexington organizations that were engaged in some form of social services work voted to organize the Lexington Welfare League. Many of the organizations were dependent to a large extent on the public for funds to carry on their activities; by combining efforts, they sought to achieve a unified and collaborative response to community needs.


The Lexington Welfare League changed its name to the Community Chest.


The Community Chest, with its agencies, became a member of the Community War Chest.


The name "Community Chest" was changed to United Community Services.

The Red Feather was officially adopted as the national symbol of the Community Chest movement.


The United Way of the Bluegrass achieved first $1,000,000 campaign.


The United Way of the Bluegrass grew to be eight counties including Anderson, Bourbon, Clark, Fayette, Jessamine, Madison, Montgomery, and Scott


The United Way gets a permanent home

"No longer is it a local organization serving Lexington with about 25 agencies; now it is United Way of the Bluegrass, serving eight counties with 100 agencies. No longer is it a one-person office; 10 staffers work the year round. And most notable of all is the growth of the charitable organization's annual goal; it topped $3 million last year."…The United Way deserves a home.
(Editorial page, January 7, 1984, Lexington Herald-Leader)

The United Way established an Endowment Program.


United Way of the Bluegrass moved into its newly purchased home located at 227 North Upper Street in Lexington.

With the help of 8,000 volunteers, UWBG raised a record $4,091,390, relied on and made allocations to 142 agencies in the eight-county area.


The United Way of the Bluegrass raised $636,000 in new money, the largest increase in a single year.


Our United Way marked its 75th anniversary

This campaign brought the UWBG 75-year fund raising total to over $100,000,000.

The organization established "leadership" — giving distinctions levels in order to reach a broader base of able givers.

The organization restructured its volunteer ranks, with emphasis on cabinets of the community's most effective business people and citizens.


UWBG Instituted an Outcome Measures system developed by United Way of America and began a continuous improvement process based on the nationally recognized Excellence in Service Quality Award Criteria.


The United Way of the Bluegrass moved from 227 North Upper Street after 13 years to 101 East Vine Street, Suite 720.

The first Minnifield All Pro Homes Giveaway benefiting United Way of the Bluegrass boosted the campaign with over 5,000 first-time givers.

United Way of the Bluegrass raised $8.1 million, which represents the single largest annual campaign increase in its history!


The organization had another record-breaking campaign year, raising $8.5 million for health and human services programs.

Agencies embraced the outcomes model, moving UWBG further toward national leadership in outcomes-based community impact.


UWBG received four national awards for excellence in marketing from United Way of America.

With support from our Alexis deToqueville Society, United Way of the Bluegrass started a local "Success by 6" program, an initiative with LexLinc as a partner in addressing the specific needs of Central Kentucky children from birth to age six.

United Way of the Bluegrass was awarded the 2000 Level I Quality Interest Award from the Kentucky Quality Council.


On January 15, 2001, at the Alpha Phi Alpha Unity Breakfast celebrating the birthday of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., United Way of the Bluegrass received the 2000 Unity Award for its work in promoting unity and tolerance in the Central Kentucky community.

United Way of the Bluegrass presented the first Donna & Tubby Smith Community Spirit Award, named in honor of Coach Orlando "Tubby" and Donna Smith. The award will be presented annually to recognize outstanding community building efforts.

United Way of the Bluegrass adopted five regional impact areas for its eight county area.
They are:
Quality of Life - People have opportunities to thrive
Caring Community - People take responsibility for making the community better
Safe and Healthy - People are well and safe
Lifelong Learning - People achieve their potential
Aging with Grace - People of all ages live with dignity


Gifts in Kind of the Bluegrass is launched. Our mission is to partner with business to provide quality products and services to 501(c) 3 health and human service agencies located throughout Central Kentucky that improve lives in our community - meaning nonprofits can redirect their dollars from supplies to programs and services.


Volunteer Solutions, a volunteer matching service helping to connect individuals to volunteer opportunities in our community was introduced. Individuals or groups looking for opportunities can log onto the United Way of the Bluegrass website (www.uwbg.org) and by clicking onto the Volunteer Solutions logo they can begin a search based on interests, skill, and geographic location.


FIRST-LINK of the Bluegrass, formerly the Volunteer Center and Ask Us, joins the United Way family.  The merger prepares United Way of the Bluegrass for the 2005 expansion of  its information and referral services into 211.  Programs of FIRST-LINK continue under the merger including the LOVE Awards, the Human Race 5K and Make A Difference Day.

On April 21, the 20th Annual LOVE Awards were held to honor the more than 50 nominations gathered from 45 agencies recognizing outstanding volunteer service in Central Kentucky.  The event was held in  Keeneland's Kentucky Room and had a record attendance.

On May 8, 30 nonprofits participated in the 10th Annual Human Race 5K- United We Run! at Keeneland.  Hundreds of runners and walkers came out to support United Way of the Bluegrass and their favorite Central Kentucky programs.

May 8, Get On Board hosted it inaugural class at United Way of the Bluegrass.  Trainees began taking the first steps to becoming trained, informed and active board members for Central Kentucky nonprofits.  Get On Board is an initiative to strengthen the community through the cultivation of a widely diverse pool of candidates who can be accessed for greater nonprofit governing board effectiveness.