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In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems.
Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten 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 cooperating 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. More than 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.
Locally, on December 4, 1937, the first organizational meeting in Greenfield for a “One for Five Drive” was held. The drive kicked off on May 2, 1938, and was the largest four-day giving drive since the Liberty bond drive.
Officially incorporated in 1940 as the Greenfield Community Chest, in 1943 it temporarily became the “Greenfield War Fund and Community Chest” to support the War effort.
By 1948 more than 1,000 communities had established “United Way” type organizations across the country.
In 1957 The Greenfield Community Chest became the United Fund of Franklin County and merged with the Community Chests of Orange and Athol.
Franklin County was on the cutting edge in many ways starting in 1968, when the United Fund of Franklin County received its first bequest (from Paul Walcott, former Recorder editor) and wisely established an endowment, becoming one of the first United Ways to have a formal endowment.
The 70’s was the decade for firsts at the United Way of Franklin County. The first full-time Executive Director was hired, Fay Boyden became the first woman campaign chair, Janet Russell created the first endowment challenge grant and Nancy Sawyer became the first women President of the Board of Directors. In addition, in 1973 the United Fund of Franklin County became United Way of Franklin County, Inc. and the NFL partnership with United Way began. A partnership that has enabled the United Way to share its special message with 110 million viewers during football season. More than 950 spots have aired since 1973.
2001 was a milestone year. In the 2000-2001 campaigns, United Way generated a record-breaking $3.91 billion in resources. For the fifth year in a row, campaign growth outpaced inflation. And then in response to terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and Somerset County, PA, the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust established the September 11th Fund. The purpose of the Fund was to mobilize financial resources to respond to the pressing needs of the victims, their families, and communities affected by the tragedy. Four months after its establishment, donations to the September 11th Fund totaled more than $425 million.
In 2006 United Way of America and MTV created Storm Corps, an Alternative Spring Break program that invites young people to help United Way rebuild the Gulf Coast after the devastating hurricanes of 2005. Nearly 100 young adults traveled to Biloxi, MS, and Foley, AL, to assist with rebuilding and recovery efforts. Alternative Spring Break has grown and is being promoted at hundreds of colleges across the county.
In 2013 – United Way of Franklin County celebrated its 75th Anniversary
In 2018 -- United Way of Franklin County celebrated its 80th Anniversary

Timeline, click to enlarge.