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United Way of Buffalo & Erie County Celebrates 100 years serving community

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Fri, Oct 27th 2017 08:50 am
Oct. 30 proclaimed 'United Way Day' by Erie County
Originally conceived as The Joint Charities Campaign in 1917 to coordinate fundraising efforts of three wartime charities, the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County (UWBEC) marks 100 years of service to Erie County today.
Erie County has proclaimed Oct. 30 as United Way of Buffalo & Erie County Day to mark the anniversary and to acknowledge the significant contributions made to the local community by the organization over the past century.
While the organization's funding priorities and name have evolved over the past 100 years, its mission of bringing people, organizations and resources together to improve community well-being has remained constant. The collaborative nature of the organization began from its inception as the Joint Charities Campaign, bringing together fundraising efforts of the Charity Organization Society, Children's Aid Society and the District Nursing Association, and continues today with the UWBEC supporting nearly 58 nonprofits throughout Erie County.
The anniversary celebration began earlier this year at UWBEC's 25th annual Day of Caring, Western New York's largest one-day service event involving more than 3,500 volunteers. Events and commemorations are planned throughout the year to honor the many individuals and organizations that have had a role in supporting the organization throughout its history. Also planned is a centennial celebration party that will take place during UWBEC's annual "Report to the Community" on Nov. 16. The community is invited to hear remarks from community leaders, learn more about the history of United Way, and find ways to get more involved in their community. More information on the event can be found on UWBEC's website, www.uwbec.org/.
During the early part of the last century, most communities were focused on raising funds for the war effort during World War I. At the same time, many families at home had great needs as their loved ones went off to war and local charities were drastically underfunded. In response to these issues, Ansley Wilcox and other community leaders decided to try a new approach and combine fundraising efforts among three charities in a one-week campaign called the Joint Charities Campaign. Consolidating efforts proved to be very successful and led to the present day United Way. The idea of being stronger together than we are alone has been a cornerstone of the organization's work and continues today.
The organization was also known as the United War & Community Fund, Community Chest of Buffalo and Erie County, the United Fund and became the United Way in 1973.
Michael Weiner, president and CEO of UWBEC, said, "Back in 1917, our founders recognized a community need and decided to do something about it. That philosophy has continued today as the United Way and the organizations that came before it have always responded to the needs of our community as Buffalo experienced a changing economy and changing societal issues. The United Way has always had an eye on the issues that most affect our community and has evolved in response to address our most critical needs. We envision another 100 years of continuing to bring people and organizations together to address community challenges as they arise."
Several present-day nonprofit organizations are a direct result of early work of the United Way, including Haven House, WNY United Against Drugs and Alcohol, the Family Justice Center, the WNY Women's Foundation and a number of initiatives focused on early childhood development including Success by 6, the Birth to 8 Initiative and the Children's Center for Success. Today, UWBEC focuses on health and wellness, education and financial stability through research and advocacy, funding, community engagement, and strengthening the local nonprofit network.
Among UWBEC's most recent impacts include:
  • Investing nearly $4 million each year into programs and services supporting residents in Erie County.
  • Investing in early childhood education programs, realizing a return of $8.60 for every dollar spent and preparing children to be successful in school.
  • More than $10 million in tax returns was realized through free tax preparation and financial literacy programs that goes back into the pockets of local residents and funneled through the local economy.
  • Handled 36,000 calls last year alone to 2-1-1, a free and confidential hotline to help residents find information and services.
  • Connecting residents and local nonprofits for volunteer opportunities that provide necessary help so nonprofits can use their funding on mission-related activities, and introducing individuals to the work of many local organizations.
  • Conducting research and issuing community report cards on critical issues, to keep the community informed as well as highlight how the United Way works to solve them.
For more information, visit www.uwbec.org.

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