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. Find that perfect vintage outfit and come have some fun. Walk through the last 75 years of United Way and Wilmington history with us.
The 1970s brought about many changes both for United Way and for the Wilmington area. The United Fund embraced the entire Lower Cape Fear area and was renamed Cape Fear Area United Fund. This change was triggered in part by a rise in new employers in the area and particularly in Brunswick County. Employers at DuPont’s new Dacron plant contributed in excess of $43,600 to the 1971 campaign, which was an impressive 99 percent participation rate. DuPont opened in Brunswick County with 300 employees in 1968 but rapidly grew to more than 1,300 employees by 1972.
In addition, the GE employee campaign in Wilmington also performed exceptionally well, and in 1971 logged a 20 percent increase in employee participation, with GE employees contributing more than $29,000 to the campaign coffers.
On the national front, United Way of America in Alexandria, Virginia, sported a new logo which represented the “helping hand cradling mankind” which was surrounded by a rainbow to symbolize hope.
In 1973, the Cape Fear Area United Fund rebranded itself as the Cape Fear Area United Way to align itself as an affiliate of the newly established national United Way of America organization. In addition, the national organization of United Way established a partnership with the National Football League to increase public awareness of social service issues facing the country. Public service announcements began to appear as a way to support local United Ways and were often created by NFL players, coaches and owners.
By 1981, the newly formed United Way Alexis de Tocqueville Society was created. The society was developed by the Hospital Corporation of America in Nashville and the Tennessee United Way. It would later impact hundreds of local United Ways. Its purpose was to recognize those who rendered outstanding service as volunteers. The name was chosen because of de Tocqueville’s admiration for the spirit of voluntary associations; today the recognition includes a donation of $10,000 to be part of this society.
In 1982, Cape Fear Area United Way was asked to become the host agency for the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), authorized by the Older American’s Act of 1965. As such, United Way became one of five host agencies in North Carolina and is the only United Way in the entire nation designated to serve as an administrative host agency. Thirty-four years later, United Way still continues this program at our Oleander Drive office.
By 1985, Cape Fear Area United Way raised $1.4 million for the building needs of Brigade Boys Club, Salvation Army, the YWCA and the YMCA. United Way also purchased its headquarters facility at 224 North Front Street, Wilmington. Nationally, United Ways raised $2.33 billion for those in need across the country.
As a precursor of change in the funding patterns for United Way, the 1987 campaign included a number of local grants being given to Families in Crisis, Hope Harbor Home, the Food Bank of Lower Cape Fear Area, the Southeastern Sickle Cell Association and the Ostomy Association. This process was the start of focusing on unmet needs and community impact. The American Red Cross also received a special grant for a new blood pressure management program.
As the decade was coming to a close, mass communication and proliferation of companies with operations in multiple communities across the country helped the Community Chest and other affiliated organizations realize that they could have even more impact by working together. Branding under a common name and symbol, United Way developed successful national programs such as the National Corporate Leadership (NCL) program.
During the same time, the U.S. economy began to shift from an industrial economy to a service economy. Companies with locations in several communities multiplied. United Way responded with NCLs designed to streamline relations between cross-community companies and local United Ways. The government offered expanding resources to nonprofits and selected United Way as the conduit for distribution.
Continue to join us as we move through the 1990s and 2000s in subsequent Insight articles. Thank you for your continued support of United Way and all that we work to do to continue to help those in need in the Cape Fear Area.
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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