Founded on Community Collaboration
United Way of Medina County’s origins can be traced to 1887 when religious leaders in Denver, Colorado recognized the need for collaboration to address their city’s welfare problems. So they created a community organization--essentially the first United Way--to collect funds for local charities, coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants.
The idea took hold and began to spread, arriving in Northeast Ohio with the 1913 founding of the Federation for Charity and Philanthropy in Cleveland. The new organization was the first in the United States to use volunteers in a "citizen review" process to study health and human service needs, allocate funds, and monitor progress. The Federation also made charitable efforts more efficient and allowed all citizens, not just wealthy individuals, to pariticpate in philanthropic endeavors. Clevleland's methods were soon modeled by other United Way precursor organizations, which often were called “community chests.”
By 1929, community chests had sprung up in communities across the country including in the cities of Akron, Wadsworth, and Medina. The United Medina Community Chest was one of more than 350 such organizations founded in 1929, and was the subject of numerous front-page articles in the Medina County Gazette.
According to these articles, the United Medina Community Chest was founded by "concerned citizens" who “planned to put into a single campaign the solicitation, collection, and distribution of funds for the activities of seven organizations of the village.” The seven organizations named were the YMCA, YWCA, American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, City Union of King’s Daughters, and the Community Organization.
To secure support for the Community Chest concept, organizers held numerous public meetings—even bringing in speakers from the Akron and Cleveland Community Chest Organizations. Fourteen prominent Medina citizens were elected to serve as Trustees, with Blake McDowell, president of Old Phoenix Bank, ultimately elected to serve as Chairman of the new board.
Organizers of the inaugural campaign, held from November 18 to 20, 1929, set a goal of raising $8,000. A resounding success, the campaign raised $12,138 that first year, and an editorial appearing in the November 22, 1929, edition of the Gazette proclaimed:
“People of Medina, you have reason to be proud of yourselves!”
Medina’s community chest became a United Way affiliate in 1981, and officially changed its name to United Way of Medina County in 1989. Over the years, other charitable organizations, including the United Appeal of Northern Medina County and the Medina County Office on Volunteering, merged with United Way of Medina County.
Making An Impact
Although United Ways across the country were very effective in raising needed funds for local health and human services programming, ongoing efforts to ensure the work was having a lasting impact led to a shift in focus. Beginning in 2000, United Way affiliates started implementing a new strategy called Community Impact. Implementing Community Impact requires local stakeholders to study and understand the root causes of problems. Objective data is used to identify and prioritize needs, community goals are agreed upon, and outcomes are measured to ensure lasting change. United Ways also began focusing their efforts in three areas: education, income stability, and health. Today there are more than 1,800 United Ways working around the world solving community problems and making an impact.
For more than 88 years, United Way of Medina County has been looking out for our neighbors and friends. We've evolved along the way and are fully committed to Community Impact. We will continue to educate our stakeholders, gather and disseminate the data that informs our work, collaborate with our community partners, measure outcomes, and raise the funding needed to ensure Medina County continues to be a vibrant community for us all!