Community Partner for over 75 years!!
The Great Depression brought hardship and loss to families across the country, including right here in Will County, IL. During this time, people lost their jobs, their homes, property, and some families were even separated, while spouses left the area seeking work. The mounting needs of local families did not go unnoticed, and a citizens’ fund of $125,000 to $150,000 was raised to help these families during the early 1930s. This unified effort to help those in need, was the foundation of Will County’s community chest.
In 1934, an official committee was established to organize pertinent agencies into a community chest. The community chest would be designed with 2 important functions: to assist local agencies in raising funds, and to help with the organizational and administrative costs of the agencies. The committee agreed that the community chest would not proceed unless at least ten agencies joined the program. The community chest then selected a board of directors that would be responsible for Joliet’s first joint campaign, with a goal of $64,487.50. In 1936, after many years of hard work by the dedicated citizens, the goal was met; and the Joliet-Will County Community Chest was officially formed.
Over the years, the Community Chest added new agencies to its roster, including the Peter Claver Mission, The Safety Council, The Dunbar Center, The Social Service Exchange, The Catholic Charities & Home Bureau, The Branch Y, The Family Service, The Fresh-Air Camp, The Will County 4-H Girls, and the U.S.O. By 1940, the Community Chest’s budget for 13 agencies was $93,350 and by 1941, $101,900 for 14 agencies. The Community Chest emerged as one of the strongest organizations in the community and continued to serve its citizens well.
On May 18, 1963, the United Crusade of Will County was formed. It preceded a year of work by a steering committee that would bring local community health, welfare, educational, social, and recreational agencies under a common agreement for raising funds. One campaign would insure adequate financing for participating agencies, the wiser use of funds, and better utilization of volunteer fundraisers.
As the needs of the community changed and grew, so did the community’s response to these needs. Thus, United Way of Will County was formed on September 17, 1976, by merging the United Crusade of Will County and Will County Citizens United. The newly formed United Way of Will County would meet the needed changes in administrative policies and to assure the broadest possible participation for raising funds and meeting the needs of the people in the community. In 1976, the United Way of Will County’s campaign included 29 agencies and raised over one million dollars.
Throughout the history of Will County, compassion and dedication to helping those in need has been in the hearts of our citizens. From the Community Chest to the United Crusade to United Way, Will County has shown an ability to expand its services and to reinvent itself again and again, all for the benefit of our community.