The concept of the United Way began in Denver, Colorado, in 1887. Four caring men — a priest, two ministers, and a rabbi — began to dream of greater service to others. They envisioned one organization that could include and unify many other organizations and, in the process, strengthen each of them.

It was a concept that proved its worth — and one powerful enough to reach Tampa 37 years later.

In 1924, the Tampa Welfare League was established. The original organization included 16 agencies: Boy Scouts, Children’s Home, Girl Scouts, Humane Society, Milk Fund, Old People’s Home, Red Cross, Salvation Army, Seaman’s Institute, Tampa Urban League, Traveler’s Aid Society, United Charities, WCTU Day Nursery, YMCA, YMHA, and YWCA. The first President of the Welfare League was C.C. Nott.

The goal for the first year’s fundraising campaign, known as the Community Chest, was $179,011.37. Mayor Perry G. Wall was the first General Campaign Chairman, and the slogan for the first drive was “Suppose Nobody Cared.”

All campaign proceeds were divided among the above agencies, with the exception of $30,000, which was allocated to the building fund for the Old People’s Home. Over the years, the name Tampa Welfare League was dropped and the organization was simply known as the Community Chest. In 1956, the Community Chest became the United Fund, and in 1976 the United Fund became The United Way of Greater Tampa. Finally, in 1993, the organization changed its name to United Way of Hillsborough County, Inc.

In Pinellas County during 1932, the Community Chest was created with the goal of organizing and funding a coordinated plan to meet the social needs of the community. The original participating agencies were Salvation Army, YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts of America and the Florence Crittenton Home. The first year’s campaign goal was $30,000.

Despite the prevailing chaotic economic conditions, (President Roosevelt declared a federal banking holiday the day the first fundraising campaign kicked off), the campaign raised $20,277.42. Local attorney Allen C. Grazier acted as General Chairman of the campaign. Through the war years, the annual campaign was combined with the United Defense Fund, and slogans referred to supporting the community and the home front. In 1956, the St. Petersburg Community Chest joined the South Pinellas County Chapter of the American Red Cross to form the South Pinellas United Givers. This organization joined the Clearwater and Dunedin funds in 1971 and formed the Pinellas United Fund, later known as the United Way of Pinellas County.

TAMPA BAY (2002 – 2012)

In July 2002, the United Ways of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties combined operations to better serve the Tampa Bay region. The new United Way of Tampa Bay funded nearly 70 Community Partner agencies located throughout the two-county area. In its first year of operation, United Way-funded programs helped one of every three people in Tampa Bay, totaling more than 600,000 people.


In July of 2012, United Way of Tampa Bay and United Way of Sarasota consolidated creating United Way Suncoast — representing a four-county region including DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.

In 2014, United Way Suncoast announced its five-year strategic plan to break the cycle of poverty by focusing on early literacy, youth success, and financial stability as its priority work.

In January 2017, Duke Energy Foundation announced a $1 million grant to United Way Suncoast to benefit the Campbell Park community in South St. Petersburg, FL.

In 2017, United Way Suncoast and United Way of Manatee County merged to United Way Suncoast serving Desoto, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties.

The concept behind the first joint-fund drive in Denver, Colorado, remains valid today. Yet the United Way Suncoast has evolved and changed dramatically over the years, largely because the organization is a flexible system that responds and adapts to changing social conditions and social needs.


Leave a Reply

Sign up to receive news and updates from United Way Suncoast.