United Way has had a presence in Canada since 1917. The organization – then referred to as a “community collective ” – began during the First World War period in Montreal and Toronto.
In 1939 the National Office was created as a division of the Canadian Welfare Council and Charlotte Whitton was named as Executive Director. She was an influential feminist and one of the first female mayors and companion of the Order of Canada.
In 1972, a new structure was created with a broader approach to include social policy and development. That year, designer Saul Bass created the iconic United Way logo, depicting the helping hand cradling mankind and surrounded by a rainbow symbolizing hope. A year later, Centraide Canada was added to the national name to acknowledge the members from Quebec. Our community impact mission – to improve lives and build community by engaging individuals and mobilizing collective action – reflects the ideas outlined in our logo. Three years later – in 1975, the name was changed to United Way of Canada.
Locally, our United Way was established in Chatham in 1948 with the help of dedicated volunteers from the Chamber of Commerce and local Labour Council. The first campaign was chaired by Sydney Amherst Morse, the third President and General Manager of Union Gas Ltd. and raised a total of $50,023 for six charities. Today, the local United Way provides funding to 34 health and social service programs within 19 local charities.
Over the past six decades, the organization has gone by various names – Community Chest (yes … just like the Monopoly Game!), Torch Drive, United Appeal and Red Feather. Today there are 108 locally autonomous United Ways across Canada. Each United Way raises money and allocates funds to support its community. With support provided by volunteers and staff, the local United Way strives to create opportunities for a better life for everyone in the communities throughout Chatham-Kent. By addressing not just the symptoms of problems, the organization works to get at the root causes of social issues and focuses its attention on making long-lasting measurable changes to community conditions.
And, in May of 2015, our national organization voted to join United Way Worldwide – making our local United Way one of 1,800 United Ways across the globe in 40 countries and territories.