It’s okay with us if you count Heart of Florida United Way’s 75th anniversary as one of the year’s more significant celebrations. We’re proud to share the stage with Batman, the Wizard of Oz and Little League Baseball. And if you think about it, we do all belong on the same stage because we all stand for the same thing- health, family and safe communities.
When Dorothy’s house was swept away by a tornado in 1939, Orlando Mayor Bob Carr was busy establishing the Community Chest, a non-profit organization that matched volunteers with community agencies in need of support. Sound familiar? That’s because the Community Chest eventually became United Way. That first effort gathered together 400 volunteers who launched a ten-day campaign that raised more than $40,000 dollars. It was so successful that they exceeded their goal by a whopping 18%. Community Chest adopted a name change in the mid-1950’s to become United Appeal. Its fundraising efforts showed continued growth, as did its membership.
By the 1960’s, Winter Park and Winter Garden had joined the effort and by 1969, United Appeal was working to better lives in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties, just as United Way does today. The organization officially became United Way in 1974, and in 1988, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties merged into Heart of Florida United Way. There were multiple fundraising milestones along the way. The million dollar mark was reached for the first time in 1968. By 1974, campaigns were topping two million dollars. But it was in 1989, one year after the tri-county Heart of Florida United Way was formed, that supporters saw the single biggest percentage increase in funds for the organization. That year fundraising increased by 20.2% for a total of $9.8 million. The current annual Workplace Campaign is now $24.5 million dollars.
So when Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man teamed up to help each other with their needs, they earned a Live United t-shirt. When volunteer superhero Batman first emerged from the shadows in 1939, he had a Live United t-shirt hidden under his supersuit. Little League Baseball has been sporting a Live United jersey since the first volunteers brought the organization together 75 years ago so that kids could enjoy the health benefits of sports in a community supported environment. And Central Florida can proudly say that it’s been showing the world how to Live United since 1939. Make our 75th year the best ever. Share your story. Tell us how you Live United. #75Days75Ways.