Doris Story of Marysville looks through old files she created over 50 years ago. Story was hired for $1/hour to serve as the first employee of the United Appeals of Union County in 1958. For three years, she served as Executive Secretary, processing all donations.
She is proud that the seeds planted by visionaries of the day bloom in the current work of United Way.
It was a new idea at the time, generated by business leaders in the Union County Chamber of Commerce. One coordinated, community-wide fundraiser for all the local charities that were soliciting for gifts, imitating what was done in other communities. And in 1958, the “United Appeals of Union County” was born.
The volunteers hired Doris Story to handle all of the paperwork and donations. She worked out of her home. Major workplaces like Scotts and Nestle participated that first year, encouraging employees to make major pledges of 50 cents per week. In October, volunteers canvassed the county door-to-door asking for donations, a tactic that lasted until the 1990’s.
“Everyone who gave at work would get a little sticker to put on their door,” Story explained. “So if someone gave at the office, they wouldn’t be solicited at home because they had a sticker in their window.”
Volunteers organizing that first fund drive included F.T. Gaumer, Dwight Graham, Walter Herd, Rev. Edward Hoeferkamp, James Huff, Charles Mills, and Mrs. Kermit Mills of Marysville; Charles Adams and Judge Robert Evans of Richwood; Mrs. Vern Howard and Burl Ridgeway of Milford Center; and John Hennigh of Darby Township.
That first campaign raised just shy of $35,000. Adjusting for inflation, that would be the equivalent of $278,000 today. From those humble beginnings, over $18 million have been given locally through the years, including a record $960,000 in 2013.
Eight agencies benefited from that first drive, including the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, The Salvation Army, Union County Mental Health Association, Union County Cancer Society, Union County Civil Defense, and the Child Welfare Board of Union County. Five of those partners remain with us today.
“I found it extremely rewarding to be a part of something I consider to be important to our community,” Story said. “To look back and say, ‘I helped do that.’ It was a great board. They were very dedicated people to get this going. We hoped it would be a permanent fixture in the community, and it has been.”
Story worked for the organization for three years, processing pledge forms like this one, asking donors to make their donation over four payments through the first seven months of the year.
For 24 years, the organization was known as the United Appeals of Union County. Volunteers changed the name to United Way of Union County in 1982.