In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. The Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. Over 125 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.
United Way has expanded globally since its beginnings in Denver in 1887. But one thing has never changed, each United Way is a completely independent non-profit with its own board of directors. In 1935, the Community Chest of Paducah, the precursor to the United Way of Paducah-McCracken County, was founded. Since then, our local United Way has raised funds to support local programs that are making a difference around issues that are specific to Paducah and McCracken County.
For the past decade, our United Way has expanded our work in the community far beyond fundraising. Today, the United Way of Paducah-McCracken County coordinates the PALS program (Promoting Academics & Leadership in Schools) a volunteer mentoring program, in 13 city and county schools, leads the community's Impact Poverty initiative, and coordinates volunteerism throughout the community through Volunteer Paducah and our day of volunteerism, Project United.
The goal of the United Way of Paducah-McCracken is to continue the work started in 1935 by mobilizing the power of our community to improve lives. The manner in which we do that today looks a little different than it did in 1935, but the mission remains the same and results can be seen every day in lives that are changed.
On November 11, 2022 we changed our name to United Way of Western Kentucky.