Our Story

Learn more about our history.  
It just might inspire you to build a better future.




In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognizes the need for cooperative action to address their city's welfare problems. The Rev. Myron W. Reedd, Msdgr. William J. O'Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for 10 health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperatings agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way.

After the second World War, a group of business and labor leaders worked together to promote a united workplace giving model facilitated by payroll deductions. Employees were told what their fair share was and they were expected to donate that amount. This made fundraising for local United Way fairly easy. The money raised was distributed in the form of block grants to preapproved partner agencies. Culture in the business community has changed in the past 40 years and we can no longer depend on companies with many employees to fund our programs. We must reach out to companies with fewer employees as well as asking for corporate and individual gifts.

Along with the changes in how money is raised, there are also changes in how money is allocated. During the past 30 years, a consensus developed among local United Ways that should be the priorities for United Way funding:

  • Helping children and youth succeed through engagement

  • Strengthening and supporting families

  • Improving access to health care

  • Promoting financial stability


Today, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people's lives. United Way is the largest privately funded nonprofit organization. There are nearly 1800 local United Way's in 45 countries around the world. Ohio has 65 local United Way's.

United Way Worldwide Mission: United Way improves lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.



United Way of Portage County was organized in 1970. It represented the merging of the Kent Twin Lakes Area United Fund & Red Cross, Ravenna United Fund and Portage County United Fund. The first Board of Trustee was 36 members. President, Robert White, and its members supported 17 agencies plus local assistance programs.

About 25 years ago, United Way of Portage County moved away from block granting money to agencies to funding programs and the Allocation Committee became Community Impact. Agencies submit grant applications for the program they want United Way to fund. The proposals need to show

  1. that there is a need

  2. how the organization applying is going to fill that need

  3. what resources they have

  4. what outcomes they expected

  5. how they would measure that outcome.

Feedback from the community impact committee volunteers showed that they did not like having to decide between a proposal from the Girl Scouts and one from a homeless shelter. They questioned “why weren’t all the homeless shelters reviewed by the same panelists?”

That change was made. All proposals have to fit into 3 categories: Education, Health and Financial Stability (Income).

Community impact volunteers nationwide were concerned that a one-year award did not provide financial stability for programming and it was not enough time to see if we are meeting the needs of the local community. It was a consensus decision that local United Ways would move to a 3-year funding cycle and study the needs of each community to set goals and priorities.


United Way Through the Years

  • United Way of Portage County was organized early in 1967. It represented the merging of the Kent Twin Lakes, Ravenna and Portage County United Fund. 

  • The first Board of Trustees was 36 members; President, Robert White, total of 17 agencies plus local assistance programs were supported.

  • Fred Haschel, served as Chairman for first Budget Committee.    

  • Robert C. Dix, served as Campaign Chairman in 1968.               

  • In March 1976, the United Fund of Portage County became the United Way of Portage.

  • In 1987, 1st Annual Portage Senior Bowl.

  • As a thank you to all the volunteers, UWPC sponsored a “Night to Remember” at Sea World on September 10, 1987. 

  • UWPC hit its goal and then some in 1988. 

  • UWPC service “Thanks to you” contribution, helped 75,000 People in Portage County. 

  • In 1994, First Annual Days of Caring-more than 140 individuals represented 18 companies & organizations participated.

  • In 2004, UWPC Video Honored-Campaign earns first place at competition award of excellence.

  • In the same year, provided free charge for all Portage County residents, formerly call “First Call for Help”, manages over 14,000 calls a year, maintains a data base of over 800 programs in Portage County and produces numerous resources pub for schools, hospitals and other organizations.

  • In 2005, United Way of Portage Campaign goal $275,406.

  • In 2006, First call for help-UWPC gets phone grants-received $10,000 from the Dominion Foundation and Henry V. & Frances W. Christenson Foundation. Extending its services to wireless customers in Portage County, during this period, cell phones replacing land lines as primary telephones.

  • 2018-2019, UWPC supported agencies served 32,753 meals to Portage county residents, last year UWPC agencies also run food cupboards to provide emergency food to the needy.


United Way of Portage County is a volunteer-based organization that supports the greatest variety of health & human services in the county, reaching people from all walks of life and income groups. Its single community-wide campaign unites businesses, volunteers and citizens to raise funds to support local family and community needs.



As you see, over the years many lives and communities have been enriched and improved; however, there is still a need to change and further improve the quality of every individual and community; but we can’t do it without you.  We can make a difference the United Way… join us.