History of United Way of Gordon County
United Way of Gordon County begins its 20th year as a non-profit organization that raises funds for many agencies working right here in Gordon County. The history of how United Way came to Gordon County involves many local community leaders and one other well-known organization. Although the research is not totally complete it gives some idea about how United Way came to be in Gordon County. It also supports that fact that Gordon County has always been a community that supported those in need.
Ron Woods, 1972-1973 President of the Gordon County Community Chest, explained how their organization worked with an all-volunteer board to raise $25,000.00 to support The Voluntary Action Center, The Winners Club, Boy Scouts, Red Cross, and others in the early days before United Way came into being. The Community Chest was in place for many years and eventually became United Way. Mr. Woods could not remember when the Community Chest began, but he knew that Dick Inman had been president before him.
Mr. Inman remembered his goal was $12,000.00 and he said they reached it. Mr. Inman said different community members were assigned certain areas-industry, individuals, small businesses, professionals, and others. The volunteers would go to these friends and neighbors to solicit contributions for the Community Chest. No one seemed to know when the Community Chest started in Gordon County but during a United Way campaign meeting with Santek Environmental employee at the Gordon County landfill, an employee remembered contributing in the early 1960’s. The Community Chest continued with a volunteer board until 1989. Many local leaders were president or officers of the Community Chest Anita Davis, Dick Inman, Ron Woods, Jan Goble, Jim Mathews, David Lance, Ron Dobbs, Charles Miller and many others.
Jim Mathews remembered that Anita Davis handled the money and did much of the work. She was employed by the Great Southern Federal Savings and Loan and handled much of the day to day work. Mr. Mathews remembered that everyone took their contributions to Anita Davis.
Jan Goble was the first board president of the United Way of Gordon County. He remembered as a child bringing a nickel to school to buy a red feather for the Community Chest Drive. He was now the president of the group that would be changing the organization from Community Chest to United Way. According to Jan Goble, Mr. Pat Logan, a local mechanic, had a shop that was located on North 41 where the Painted Post is today. He left a sum of money to Community Chest. The current volunteer board felt that it was time provide more structure and control to the organization. An office was initially opened by Lori Etheridge, and Northwest Georgia United Way provided some assistance with the first United Way campaign. Northwest Georgia UW wanted to make Gordon County part of their United Way, but the current board was not interested in the merger and according to Mr. Goble the decision was the right one for Gordon County. The board hired Rebecca Owen as the first United Way Executive Director in 1989. Ms. Owen initially was a part-time director until 1990 when she became full time. She remembers having to go to the Wachovia Bank across the street from the United Way office to use the typewriter and other office equipment. Dan Davis, UW Board Member, was at that time the branch manager and offered his assistance. United Way of Gordon County flourished under the leadership of Ms. Owen. Many of the payroll deduction contributors who started giving to United Way because of Rebecca Owen are still contributing today. Ms. Owen was the longest serving director from 1989-1999 and the most successful. Mr. Goble said that was the best decision they ever made. Jan Goble remembered that the year he was president of United Way of Gordon County was the first-time United Way raised $100,000.00.
In 1994 Ms. Owen and a group of United Way volunteers began the first Unity Run. The purpose of the Unity Run was to kick-off the annual fundraising campaign. For 16 years, the Unity Run has started each campaign. Although the route has changed, the Unity Run is still a fall tradition in Gordon County. Since leaving United Way, Ms. Owen has worked in the family business, Owen Detectron, and started the musical group Tapestry.
From 1999-2001 Trace Vaughn was the Executive Director. Mr. Vaughn is now a Graduation Coach at Sonoraville High School and very involved in the community. He was followed by Ronnie McBrayer in 2001-2005. Mr. Mc Brayer was a local pastor who left United Way and moved to Florida where he is an accomplished author and continues to pastor a church. Following Ronnie McBrayer from 2005-2006 Chris Marshall, Joe Battaglio, and Debbie Baggett directed United Way. In September 2006 Vickie Spence began her tenure with United Way and is the current executive director.
United Way of Gordon continues to raise funds for the 18 agencies working to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Gordon County.