On October 29, 1925 a joint meeting of the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs along with the “business men of Rochester” was held in the Arthur Hotel. According to the minutes, the meeting was called “for the purpose of crystallizing sentiment in favor of a Community Chest for Rochester and to form [the] organization.”
Mr. C. A. Chapman was chosen to serve as temporary Secretary of the meeting. He records that Rev. W. W. Bunge reported that “practically all clubs and organizations” in the city had endorsed a Community Chest and called for getting the organization underway.
Mr. Gilbert Utz recommended a plan for organizing a Community Chest in Rochester.
J. A. Melone’s motion to form a Community Chest carried and an executive board was unanimously elected and comprised of: Dr. A. W. Adson, Mrs. Geo. Allen, Henry Brock, Mrs. Fred Finch, Ralph LaPlant, Paul McGeary, F. F. Palen, Dr. A. H. Sanford, Dr. G. P. Sheridan, James T. Spillane, A.G. Whiting.
At the next meeting on November 6, 1925, Mr. J. O. Nelson was elected President; Mr. Geo. Allen, Vice-President; Mr. R. LaPlant, Treasurer; and, Mrs. Fred Finch, Secretary. Rev. W. W. Bunge and Mr. Gilbert C. Utz were elected to the board to fill vacancies created by the resignations of Adson and Whiting.
The first “Financial drive” raised $26,740.00 and was led by Henry Brock. And so it would go, better years, worse years, depression years, prohibition years, war years. Decades of committee meetings, fund-raising, committee meetings, receiving requests for funds, committee meetings, distributing those funds, and committee meetings. Volunteers, a few paid staff, time, effort, and the steady generosity of a community all working together to support people in need.
In the Annual Report of January 29, 1963, Robert C. Roesler observed that while the past year had been the 38th year of operation for the Community Chest, it was “also the first of an anticipated series of successful years for the United Fund of Greater Rochester.” Roesler expressed his belief that the “same citizen dedication and diligence which has meant success for the Chest will assure the future of the United Fund.” Ten months before the Community Chest Board had voted unanimously to organize a United Fund.
The United Fund’s first campaign, chaired by Harold E. Kamm, raised $268,307.00. By its final campaign in 1971, led by M. S. LaPree, the United Fund was raising over twice that amount - $577,504.00.
In 1972, the United Fund of Greater Rochester became the United Way of Olmsted County. This change not only brought a “new look to our organization,” wrote President Clifford M. Johnson in the Annual Report of 1972, “but also involved an expansion of services to more people.” The year saw 1,400 new first-time donors and “growing partnerships with public service agencies and governmental units.” This first United Way campaign, chaired by O. D. Robinson, raised $635,456.00.
On February 14, 1976, United Way published in the Post-Bulletin a questionnaire to review “current and future needs” asking readers to select from a list of a dozen problems the three they found “most pressing.” In March 2002, the United Way released its first preliminary Community Needs Assessment Report on a wide range of community needs. In the foreword co-chairs of the Community Impact Task Force, Phil Wheeler and Jim Rustad described the report as “an important part of the commitment that the Olmsted County United Way has made to focus its efforts and resources on the most important needs in our community and on programs which have the highest impact on those needs.”
In 2003, a merger with CommunityNet was accomplished bringing to United Way of Olmsted County the Volunteer Center and 2-1-1 information and referral. Following the 2003 needs assessment, the organization began a transformation of its mission that shifted it from a “fund-raising/pay-through” model to one that aligned with a “community impact” model.
In 2004, the campaign led by Michael Willard raised $4,103,858.00. From the first financial drive in 1925 through the 2004 Campaign, together these organizations raised $85,340,034.00. However, the work of eighty years and thousands of people and tens of thousands of hours has always been about more than raising money. “How much” was an easy way to keep score, but it was “what for” that mattered.
In 2005, program awards were based upon the Community Impact Model with a commitment to community-based priorities and accountability to outcomes. Focus included meeting basic needs, promoting health, building skills for self-sufficiency, nurturing children and youth and advancing technology solutions. In each of these areas, community programs and community partnership initiatives continue to create lasting changes with clear measures of progress and a clear vision of the success.
The first Agenda for Change with the Community Impact Model results were reported out in 2006 and United Way published its Agenda for Change Highlights for 2007 - 2008. In 2008, a six year Strategic Plan was adopted. This is reviewed on an annual basis. A dashboard of measured results and an annual report are available for each subsequent year.