A tradition of caring in southeast Arkansas
While the United Way of Southeast Arkansas offices are in Pine Bluff, one or more of the 22 partner agencies provide services in 16 southeast Arkansas counties. Volunteers are at the core of the organization which supports the efforts of these partner agencies providing benefits to people in every corner of our communities.
The United Way of Southeast Arkansas partner agencies provide services in these Arkansas counties:
Arkansas Chicot Drew Lincoln
Ashley Cleveland Grant Monroe
Bradley Dallas Jefferson Ouachita
Calhoun Desha Lee Phillips
There is a strong tradition of giving and helping in southeast Arkansas. The United Way of Southeast Arkansas traces its roots to the Pine Bluff Community Chest of 1924.
Governed by a board of volunteers
The United Way is governed by a diverse board of volunteer community leaders who give unselfishly of their time, talents, and resources to ensure that deserving families and individuals in our communities receive maximum benefits from your gifts to the United Way.
Funding to partner agencies is governed by our allocations committee. This committee of volunteers receives requests from agencies and financial reports from the annual campaign. Committee members visit each agency, analyze the financial information and assess needs to develop the most equitable method of distributing United Way funds. Our professional staff provides support to the board, committees and volunteers to keep the wheels of the organization turning.
Please look through our site to discover what we do and how you can fit in as a volunteer in the United Way or one of our partner agencies. We welcome your questions and comments.
History of the United Way in Southeast Arkansas
The United Way of Southeast Arkansas is locally-funded and autonomous, existing to ensure that as many as possible of our community’s charitable dollars reach areas of greatest need.
The United Way of Southeast Arkansas celebrated its Golden Anniversary during the 1997-98 United Way year. However, the first such united local effort began in 1924. At that time, the Community Chest of Jefferson County was formed in Pine Bluff, culminating three years of effort by O.C. Hauber, a determined civic leader.
In its first year, the Community Chest set a goal of $48,750. Disappointingly, no record of the total collected exists, and we cannot know how successful the campaign was. We do know, however, that Pine Bluff continued to mount an annual community fund raising effort through the rest of the decade.
The Jefferson County Community Chest disappeared with the onset of the Great Depression, and for approximately ten years, each local charity conducted its own campaign. A single joint effort by a few agencies in the early 1940’s received little encouragement because the nation was at war and all attention focused on far-away battlegrounds.
When World War II ended, people throughout the country were ready again to tackle local problems and find solutions. Having seen how hearts and wills united in a common cause can overcome the mightiest of enemies, the concept of unity in giving began to make more sense to Americans. Community fund-raising efforts spread from city to city.
In the late Fall of 1946, the Community Chest was reorganized in Jefferson County and a campaign conducted the following year. Under the leadership of Ralph Mitchell, president, and W.H. Kennedy, campaign chairman (employed at the time by Arkansas Power & Light Company), area residents raised $61,289, exceeding the official 1947 goal by almost 20%.
The Community Chest became the United Fund in 1964. When, in 1971, the national association of independent community organizations like ours changed its name to United Way of America, we followed suit as the United Way of Jefferson County. On March 15, 1990, a press conference was held, in Sheridan, for the purpose of signing an agreement for joint United Way activities. Grant County thus became a part of the primary service area and the United Way of Southeast Arkansas was born. Partner Agencies of UWSA provide services in 14 Southeast Arkansas counties in addition to Jefferson and Grant. These counties constitute the secondary service area.
The million-dollar mark was exceeded for the first time in 1987, our 40th anniversary. For the first time in four campaigns, the Fall 1990 campaign exceeded goal and did so before year end. In the Fall 1991 campaign, the goal was not only exceeded but at the earliest date in the history of this United Way.
In 1995 UWSA developed a five year strategic plan. A part of the plan called for the United Way to investigate the housing needs of partner agencies and other nonprofit community services agencies.
This was done and in 1997 a proposal for a 41,000 square foot community services center to house 14 agencies was presented to the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. After working with the Foundation over the next two years, the proposal was approved and the Foundation committed $6,676,866 to construct, equip and furnish the center.
At the recommendation of community leaders the Community Services Center was relocated to a new site in order for the project to serve as an anchor for downtown redevelopment. A considerable amount of time and money was devoted to planning a building that will encourage maximum collaboration of tenants and hold operating and upkeep costs to a minimum. Site preparation started on August 2001 and construction began on March 13, 2002.
The new millennium presented the UWSA with a great challenge. Two fundraising campaigns were essential. An endowment campaign in excess of $1,000,000 was required by the Foundation to provide for future building repairs and equipment replacement. The goal was achieved. Then, the Fall 2000 UWSA Campaign goal of $1,325,000 was exceeded. The people of Pine Bluff and Jefferson County once again rallied to meet the needs of the community.
On September 11, 2001, the UWSA was scheduled to kickoff the annual campaign. Upon learning of the terrorist attacks, the event was cancelled. In the wake of terrorist attacks and a downturn of the economy, citizens of Southeast Arkansas once again answered the call for help. This was the 7th consecutive year the UWSA exceeded the dollar target, a record last achieved in 1980.
Contrary to national trends UWSA giving has remained strong to this point into the new century. Statistics indicate that United Way giving in Jefferson County ranks above state, regional and national averages.
On September 11, 2002 a memorial for the September 11, 2001 victims and heroes was held at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. Over 600 people attended, including Lt. Governor Win Rockefeller. This was the largest meeting in UWSA’s history. After great effort and two extensions, the Fall 2002 campaign goal was achieved on February 28, 2003 for the 8th consecutive year – a record not previously reached in the 57 year history of the United Way of Southeast Arkansas.
The Donald W. Reynolds Community Services Center was occupied on August 1, 2003. Final payment was received from the Foundation on February 11, 2004, bringing the total to $9,977,525. Also, on February 11, 2004 the Fall 2003 annual campaign goal was reached, for the 9th year in a row.
2005 brought about a unique set of challenges. As UWSA staff and volunteers prepared for the Fall 2005 Campaign kick-off, Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. The focus of UW agencies and the community became to meet the immediate needs of evacuees. The Convention Center became an emergency shelter, housing hundreds of evacuees for over a month and serving over 25,000 meals. Volunteers and donations poured in, proving how caring and generous Southeast Arkansas can be. With this challenge met, we turned to the Fall 2005 UW Campaign. Businesses and individuals dug deeper and volunteers and agencies worked harder to reach and exceed our target of $1,230,000. Meeting this goal helped to ensure that the Partner Agencies of the United Way will be there, trained and equipped and ready to help.
Although the Fall 2004 dollar target was not met, the Fall 2008 successful achievement makes the fourth consecutive year of an “over the top campaign”. In fact, the United Way of Southeast Arkansas was the only United Way in the entire state of Arkansas to reach goal in the Fall of 2008. This achievement is a testament to the people of Pine Bluff, Jefferson County and Southeast Arkansas.
As the economy continues to present challenges to the nation and the world, Pine Bluff and Southeast Arkansas continues to renew their “commitment to caring.” The Fall 2009 Campaign exceeded the dollar target. This will help to assure that help for the hurting individuals and families will again be provided for another year during 2010.
Even though the economy had negative impacts on a local, state and national basis, the Fall 2010 Campaign for the United Way of Southeast Arkansas continued to be strong. Notable increases were recorded and agencies can look forward to full funding of the allocation during 2011.
The success of the Fall 2011 United Way Campaign proved, once again, that the people of Southeast Arkansas do indeed “LIVE UNITED”. A record number of donors gave at the Pillar level ($500 plus) and increases were seen at several companies. The dollar target was exceeded for the 7th consecutive year and 16 of the past 17 years.
Individuals and businesses in Pine Bluff, Jefferson County, and Southeast Arkansas continue to maintain a deep sense of caring and commitment to hurting individuals and families. The dollar target was exceeded in the Fall 2012 Campaign.
During 2012-2013 the Dolly Parton Imagination Library was introduced to the area. This program provides a book, sent by mail, to each registered child from birth through their 5th birthday. Founded in 1995, this program has proven to be highly effective in preparing children for kindergarten.