History of United Way of Gaston County

United Way Building

United Way Building

In 1953, the Greater Gastonia United Fund was chartered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization with eleven participating agencies. The first community fundraising campaign in 1953, surpassed its goal of $89,915.  The United Fund was formed by Gastonia businessmen who recognized the need to have a central fund-raising and fund distribution system to meet local human care needs.  Instrumental in forming the organization were Harold Mercer, Allen Sims, Robert Wren, Sr., R.P. Caldwell, Sr., R.H. Pinnix, Allen Smith, and Knox Winget, Jr. The first president was E.W. “Woody” Carothers, Sr.  After operating four years with part-time staff support, O.J. “Mike” Stenstrom became the first full time executive director in 1957.

The Greater Gastonia United Fund was succeeded by United Community Services of Gaston County in 1967 under the leadership of president Harold Sumner, to expand services from Gastonia to other communities in the county. United Community Services operated with three divisions: Social Planning, Budgeting and United Appeal and included Gastonia, Lowell, Dallas, Mt. Holly, Cramerton, Cherryville and Stanley.

The name United Way of Gaston County was adopted by the Board of Directors on June 21, 1972. The name change reflected the desire to join other similar organizations around the country by having a common name and identification with the new United Way of America movement.  Bessemer City later joined the united campaign effort.

In 1993, the Belmont United Fund merged with the United Way of Gaston County and in 1996, United Way joined the McAdenville Community Chest to solicit the employees of Pharr Yarns in the first combined campaign effort.

United Way of Gaston County held its first million-dollar campaign in 1979, its first two million-dollar campaign in 1986 and its first three million-dollar campaign in 1993.

In 2008, United Way began an emphasis on building awareness about the product side of its business – the funded programs and services.  The ultimate goal is to deliver meaningful programs and services that impact problems identified by the community as being of highest priority.    The process began by moving from agency funding to program funding.  Within two years, United Way advanced to incorporating outcome measurement results for all funded programming to help organizations demonstrate how a particular program changes an individual’s life and enhances the organization’s ability to better serve the client and community.