We Were Built For This




United Way was born out of a health and economic crisis.


It was the late 1800s. Americans sick with tuberculosis were flocking to western cities in the hope of finding cleaner, breathable air to survive their deadly diagnosis. But food pantries, churches and relief agencies in these urban areas, like Denver, Colorado, couldn’t handle the onslaught of so many people desperate for help. So, an idea was born by five civic leaders: form one organization to raise and distribute funds to all the relief societies for the biggest impact possible. It was a tremendous success. It was 1887, and the United Way movement began.


By 1918, the movement spread to Indianapolis. Indy’s civic and business leaders used the United Way idea to raise significant funds to support soldiers overseas and local poverty programs at home. Thanks to tens of thousands of caring citizens, United Way’s first campaign, visibly seen on Monument Circle in the form of a War Chest, was highly successful.


Since then, United Way has been the mechanism and inspiration to help its community withstand the effects of the 1918 flu epidemic, 9/11 terrorist attacks, the 2008 economic recession, and today, the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis. This is what we’re made of – reminding our communities that through hardship, there is hope.