In Denver, Colorado, in 1887, religious leaders founded the Charity Organization Society, the first United Way organization that planned and coordinated local services and conducted a single fundraising campaign for 22 agencies. The first fundraising campaign raised $21,700. In 1913 the nation's first Community Chest was born in Cleveland, Ohio. There, a program for allocating funds was developed. Community Chest was widely used for United Way organizations until the 1950s. Between 1919 and 1948, Community Chests grew from 39 to over 1,000. Today there are over 1,300 local United Ways in communities across the country.
In Gordon County
The Gordon County Community Chest was formed around the 1960s. Ron Woods was the first recorded Community Chest Board President. He served from 1972 - 1973. Under Woods' leadership, the all-volunteer board raised $25,000 to support the Voluntary Action Center, Winner's Club, Boy Scouts, and the Red Cross. Dick Inman served before Mr. Woods, but the dates - unfortunately - were not recorded. During Mr. Inman's time as Board President, their goal was $12,000. The Community Chest continued with a volunteer board until 1989. From the 1960s through 1989, the Community Chest was led by the following local leaders: Dick Inman, Ron Woods, Anita Davis, Jan Goble, Jim Mathews, David Lance, Ron Dobbs, and Charles Miller.
In April 1987, the Gordon County Community Chest transitioned to the United Way of Gordon County, receiving its 501 (c)(3) designation as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Jan Goble served as the first Board President of United Way. Goble often remembered donating to the Community Chest during their annual nickel drive at school. It was under Goble's leadership that the Community Chest made its official transition to United Way. In 1989, Rebecca Owens became the first Executive Director of United Way. Under Owens' leadership, the United Way flourished in Gordon County. In 1994, the Unity Run 5K was established to kick off the annual United Way Campaign. Owens served as the Executive Director from 1989 - 1999. Trace Vaughn served as the Executive Director from 1999 - 2001, and Ronnie McBrayer served from 2001 - 2005. 2005 - 2006, Chris Marshall, Joe Battaglio, and Debbie Baggett directed the United Way leadership. In September of 2006, Vickie Spence became the Executive Director of United Way after retiring as the Vice Superintendent of Gordon County Schools.
Under Spence's leadership, the United Way of Gordon County grew and thrived. During Spence's 13-year career with United Way, she led the organization to reach $849,000 in annual contributions through payroll campaigns, major gifts, and corporate investments. In 2012, she helped lead the creation of Mohawk Presents Dancing with the Stars in partnership with the Historic Calhoun GEM Theatre. Donna McEntyre, a local banker, approached Sarah Husser, Marketing Director at the GEM Theatre, and Vickie Spence, Executive Director of United Way, about creating a Dancing with the Stars event in Calhoun. Husser, Spence, and their committee brought the show to life in March 2012. From 2012 - 2018 the show raised over $870,000. In 2017, all proceeds were designated solely to United Way, and the GETS SCHOOLED era of Dancing with the Stars began. Since day one, Mohawk Industries has been the Premiere sponsor of this event. United Way of Gordon County no longer sponsors this fundraising event as of 2020.
Spence and Ashley Goble formed the Young Leaders Society affinity group in 2016. The Young Leaders Society's mission is to cultivate a new generation of advocates, givers, and volunteers with United Way. This group is currently not active.
In 2017, United Way of Gordon County received a generous donation from George Owens, allowing the organization to establish a charitable trust, ensuring that the United Way would leave a lasting legacy. Spence served as Executive Director until her retirement in June 2019. In April 2019, Jennifer Latour took over the leadership of United Way of Gordon County. Latour established a Covid-19 recovery fund, providing more than $12,000 in contributions locally. Latour left her role as Executive Director in June of 2023.
In July of 2023, Stacy Long took over as the Executive Director for United Way of Gordon County. Long previously served as Executive Director for the Voluntary Action Center, a United Way Partner Agency, for twelve years.
United Way of Gordon County currently supports 20 agencies.