Our History

United Way of Lake County Now Celebrating 100 Year Anniversary!

The year 2022 marked the 100-Year Anniversary of United Way of Lake County. We are the problem-solvers, the hand-raisers, and the game-changers.We have been responding to our community's most pressing needs for a full century and are proud of the difference we've made and continue to make in the lives of our Lake County friends and neighbors in need. While the support we provide changes with the needs of our community, the one thing that has remained constant is our resolution to build a better community for all. Today we fight to drive lasting change for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in Lake County.

100 Years United. Driving Change. Helping People.

Take a look at a bit of our history below. 


In Denver, a group of religious leaders founded the Charity Organizations Society, recognizing the needs in the community were beyond the reach of their abilities if they contined to work separately.


Cleveland's Chamber of Commerce formed the Committee on Benevolent Assocations to set standards and monitor charities.


The first community planning program, Associated Charities was formed in Pittsburgh.


The National Association of Societies for Organizing Charities was formed to help agencies cooperate and share information.


Cleveland created the first modern Community Chest and developed a program for systematically allocating funds as well as raising them.


Executives of 12 fund-raising organizations met in Chicago and formed the American Association for Community Organizations.  This group is considered by many to be the founding fathers of what is now United Way of America.


THE BEGINNING - UNITED WAY OF LAKE COUNTY:  Western Lake County Fund in Willoughby holds its first drive and the funds raised were used to purchase an automobile for the community's one visiting nurse.


The Lake County Federation formed to support community charities.


The Mentor Community Fund was established.


The Kirtland Township Community Fund was created.

Wickliffe holds its first campaign.


The Madison Township Community Fund was founded.


The Lake County Federation amended its constitution and by-laws to conduct one money-raising campaign for health, welfare and character building agencies and the United Fund campaign was born.


The United Fund drive was conducted for eight member agencies, raising $137,000.


Madison Township joins forces with the United Fund campaign and more agencies become a part of the United Fund campaign.  The campaign then undergoes another change and the name becomes the United Fund of Central and Eastern Lake County.


The United Fund of Central and Eastern Lake County extends an invitation to other funding groups who then agreed that efforts should be made to coordinate activities between the remaining fund drives.  One of the first concrete results of the cooperation is the development of a standard budget form and the recommendation that the joint budget hearings be held between the Central and Eastern Fund and other groups still existing in Mentor, Kirtland, Wickliffe and Willoughby.

The Lake County Liaison Committee is formed to share information regarding budget requests, campaign activities, public relations, planning and other issues. The results of these joint efforts give way to the need for a fund drive that will benefit all of Lake County and gather member agencies under one umbrella.


The Board of Central and Eastern United Fund makes the following resolution:

"Because we believe that one fund for Lake County will better serve the human needs of the county and the participating agencies, the United Fund of Central and Eastern Lake County is willing to join forces and the major industries in the county indicate their endoresment and intention to support a county fund program."

The support was rapid and the funds joined forces in the following manner:


The Mentor Community Fund chooses to join the organization and the two merge to become the United Way of Lake County.


The Kirtland Area Community Fund chooses to join the newly formed United Way of Lake County.


The Western Lake County Fund decides to join forces and merger takes place on March 23.


United Way of Lake County moves the location of their offices from Painesville to its first location on Progress Parkway in Mentor.


Under United Way leadership, the Lake County Community Resource Team was formed in response to the local teen suicide crisis.  As a result, teen suicide prevention materials were distributed to every Lake County household and the first crisis hotline was established.  United Way received national recognition for this program as a model for other communities.

A latchkey program was begun, later becoming the School Age Child Care Coalition.


The first community-wide needs assessment was published and released by United Way of Lake County.

The Homeless Coalition was formed to address the growing problem of Homelessness in Lake County.


United Way of Lake County, Wickliffe United Way and United Way Services create joint budget conferences for the agencies they have in common.


A generous bequest from Catherine Roddick provides funding for a permanent home and a building is built down the street on Progress Parkway, in the heart of Lake County.  In compliance with Ms. Roddick's wishes, the building includes a central meeting room that is made available to community groups and other non-profit organizations.


The first Day of Caring in Lake County was sponsored by United Way of Lake County, with 75 volunteers participating.

United Way of Lake County begins running the Harvest for Hunger campaign in Lake County.


United Way LINK staff form the Lake County Church Network to better coordinate the matching of services available through local churches and those in need.


A $100,000 United Way of Lake County childcare grant was recognized by United Way of America as an innovative initiative and earned distinction on the U.S. Department of Labor Honor Roll.


After careful consideration, the advisory board of the Wickliffe United Way recommends the organization end its relationship with United Way Services and join United Way of Lake County.  This action unifies all of the cities and committees in Lake County with the purpose of serving the health and human service needs of its citizens.


Launched 2-1-1 Program.


Youth United Way was started.  A total of 25 high school students from across the county met and distributed $10,000 to agencies of their choice.


United Way of Lake County fundraiser features Harlem Globetrotters Legends basketball game.


Women United (previously known as the Women's Leadership Council) hosts its first fundraiser - Women's Winterfest.


Young Leaders (now known as Emerging Leaders) affinity group formed.


United Way of Lake County hosts A Voice for the Voiceless, “An Evening & Dinner with Michelle Knight" to place a spotlight on domestic violence in Lake County. Michelle Knight was the first of three young women abducted and held captive for over a decade by Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro. Benefactors included Forbes House, WomenSafe, Beacon Health, and Western Reserve Counseling Services. 


Students from rival Willoughby-Eastlake High Schools North and South High compete during their "Spirit Week" to raise the greatest amount of funds, resulting in a total combined donation of $30,564 to United Way of Lake County.


United Way of Lake County establishes a Lake County Relief Fund and raises $160,000 to alleviate unforeseen community needs brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


United Way of Lake County celebrates 100-Year Anniversary.

New United Way of Lake County President & CEO Dione DeMitro begins August 15, 2022.