United Way of the Cape Fear Area will be celebrating its 75th anniversary on June 11, 2016, at Audi Cape Fear. Our 1940s-themed event will highlight the past 75 years, as well as focus on our present and future. All are invited to this milestone event. Purchase tickets at 75thanniversarycelebration.eventbrite.com.
United Way – 1950s and 1960s
The late 1950s brought some interesting changes to the world and to the Wilmington area. The United Fund, a precursor to United Way of the Cape Fear Area, added the United Cerebral Palsy Association and United Seamen’s Service to its list of agencies. A temporary headquarters for the United Fund opened at 211 Princess Street in Wilmington. William G. Broadfoot, Jr. served as board chair and co-chaired the campaign with Walker Taylor, Jr. By 1957, Mrs. A.E. Lee became the very first executive director for the United Fund, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed an executive order creating the Uniform Federal Fundraising Program, a program that permitted local federated campaigns to ask federal employees for pledges (a forerunner to the Combined Federal Campaign-CFC).
As the 1950s progressed, the local campaign featured a “feather race” for boys and girls under age 18. Homemade feather likenesses were set adrift in the Cape Fear River at the Customs House on Water Street. The boys’ feathers were red and the girls’ feathers were blue; judges located on the Coast Guard Cutter Mendota determined the winner of the race. Robert H. Tate served as board chair and L. Graham Walton led the campaign during this time.
In 1959, post-war prosperity brought increasingly lofty United Fund campaign goals. Although those goals were not met from 1954 through 1958, campaign yields increased significantly from what they had been in the late 1940s. With Wallace C. Murchison as president, Howard G. Lilly, Jr. as campaign chair, and F. Flagg Newcomb as executive director, the United Fund raised more than $225,000 and finally exceeded its goal by 5 percent.
Much of the 1960s was filled with national developments that captured the world’s attention. Lunch counter sit-ins took place at Woolworths in Greensboro, N.C.; the first presidential debate was televised; and President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963.
Closer to home, Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a community service and work-based training program for older workers, was developed after Congress passed Title V of the Older Americans Act. This program, managed by the U.S. Department of Labor, provided subsidized, service-based training for low-income persons age 55 or older who were unemployed and had poor employment prospects. The future Cape Fear Area United Way, now United Way of the Cape Fear Area, would have a significant role in managing this program in future years, beginning in 1983 and continuing to this day.
From 1967 to 1970, Allan T. Strange, Charles P. Wrenn and John T. Talbert were involved in the annual campaigns and organization at a time when national United Funds raised more than $700 million, despite civil unrest in many parts of our country. Those campaigns helped 27.5 million families, supported 31,300 agencies, and saw 8.5 million volunteers assist people in need.
By 1970, United Way was adopted as the official brand for organizations that had been using identifiers such as Community Chest, United Fund, United Good Neighbors, Red Feather and other brands. United Way of America was established as the name for the national umbrella organization formerly called United Fund. The Cape Fear organization would not adopt the name change until the following year, at which time we became the Cape Fear Area United Fund.
As the national United Way transitioned to the new name and brand, it also moved its headquarters from New York to the Washington, D.C. area. As part of that transition, a re-commitment of United Way of America was made to reinforce the independence of local United Ways, and state-of-the-art training was provided to volunteers and local United Way staff. This recognition of a nationwide system of “local” United Ways that are governed by local volunteers is a key characteristics that sets United Way apart from any other national (and now international) organization.
In next month's Insights article, we will continue on our journey through the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. And again, mark your calendars for our 75th-anniversary event on June 11, 2016, at Audi Cape Fear. Visit uwcfa.org for more information.
Christopher L. Nelson is president of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, a local nonprofit organization. Since 1941, the United Way of the Cape Fear Area has worked alongside local agencies in Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender counties to assist them in providing substantial and sustainable change within the Cape Fear area. To learn more about the United Way of the Cape Fear Region, go to https://uwcfa.org/ or call (910) 798-3900.
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