The United Way Movement
The United Way was organized in Columbia County in 1955 with a mission that still stands today: "to increase the organized capacity of people to care for another." In that year, the United Way movement expanded beyond the borders of Berwick, where the first United Way in Columbia County (called the Community Chest) began in 1923. With $2,000 and the non-profit status granted from the State of Pennsylvania, this newly formed United Way was chartered as the Columbia County United Fund, Inc. to serve the entire county outside the greater Berwick area. This new association was led by a group of 42 community-minded men and women, with the Rev. Varre E. Cummings serving as the first president and campaign chair. The first campaign was held in 1956 and $78,000 was raised for 11 member agencies. Over the course of the next few years, the United Way continued to expand in the area and in 1961, the Danville Area United Way was established to help residents of Danville and the surrounding area receive valuable health and human services through its member agencies. Today, the United Way of Columbia and Montour County serves 24 member agencies.
Since 1955, the United Way of Columbia and Montour County has seen significant growth in its campaign. Its contributions are the most reliable and substantial form of revenue for the partner agencies supported by the United Way. The total pledged by the generous members of the community has grown from $78,000 in 1956 to $770,000 in 2000 - a fitting celebration for the 55 years that the United Way served the community. Since 1955, our United Way has raised over $14.6 million.
The success of the United Way is the result of the volunteer leadership that includes some of the county's most notable philanthropists. Without a paid director until the early 1980's, volunteers led the United Way through its first 25 years. In 1984, John Thomas accepted the position of Executive Director of the United Way and continued in that role until he retired in March of 2015. Mr. Thomas assisted his Board of Trustees in recruiting the finest community volunteers to lead both the United Way's operations and the annual fundraising campaign. People like James A. Magee, who served as campaign chair three times, the last time co-chairing with his daughter Drue, and Ernesto G. Ramirez, who was elected president of the board three times, are just a few of the community-minded volunteers who fulfilled their philanthropic and volunteer commitments to their community. Leadership changed hands in 2015 with Adrienne Mael accepting the position as President and CEO. She has successfully managed the operations and fundraising campaigns ever since (see bio below).
In an effort to collaborate on operations and fundraising campaigns, the United Way of Columbia County and the Danville Area United Way consolidated to become the United Way of Columbia and Montour County in July of 2017.