The Herald

In honor of last week’s milestone 75th anniversary, Titusville United Way Chief Professional Officer Terri Ann Wig submitted the organization’s movement and history.

Following are excerpts from the submission.

In 1887, a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers and a rabbi got together ... It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but they didn’t walk into a bar. What they did do was recognize the need to work together in new ways to make Denver a better place. 

Frances Wisebart Jacobs, the Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart and Rabbi William S. Friedman put together an idea that became the nation’s first united campaign, benefitting 10 area health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to collect the funds for local charities, to coordinate relief services, to counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies and to make emergency assistance grants for cases that could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 for this greater good, and created a movement that would become United Way. 

In 1913, the nation’s first Community Chest was born in Cleveland, Ohio. There, a program for allocating funds was developed. The name, Community Chest, was widely used for United Way organizations until the 1950s.

Today, there are 1,800 United Way’s worldwide. United Way is the largest philanthropic organization with $3.3 billion in donations worldwide. 

On Friday, April 13, 1945 a meeting was held at 101 Commercial Bank Building in Titusville to organize a Community Chest for the Titusville community. At this meeting, community leaders presided over and helped identify what the Community Chest of Titusville would accomplish. 

In 1946, compelled by such statements as “man’s brotherhood to man,” and “those of us with a conscience,” members of the Titusville community were asked to raise $38,500 to support local agencies in providing services to those in need. The ads identified making contributions to the Community Chest campaign as the duty, an American obligation to all who cherish their birthright. Agencies that benefitted from these funds included Associated Charities, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Salvation Army, School Health Fund. Sisters of Mercy, Titusville Hospital, Titusville Playgrounds, USO, YMCA and YWCA. 

The Community Chest continued to grow and support organizations with volunteers until 1970 when Martha Volkstadt was hired as the organization’s executive director. Titusville Area Community Chest made a major change in 1975 and was renamed the Titusville Area United Way. By affiliating with the nationally known United Way organization, the former Community Chest had the advantage of the national advertising campaign and publicity.

From 1970 until her retirement, Mrs. Volkstadt continued to grow the Titusville Area United Way. Prior Executive Director Martha Volkstadt passed away in December 1997 near the conclusion of the 1998 campaign.

Terri Ann Wig was hired as Director in 1997 to fill the shoes of Martha Volkstadt and interim Director Christine Wolski. From 1997, Wig has led the United Way through 23 successful campaigns while moving the United Way of the Titusville Region to a community impact leader. Under Wig’s tenure, the United Way has moved from agency funding to needs-based program funding with established outcomes and measurements. 

United Way of the Titusville Region is no longer a fundraising and grant-making organization. While the organization still raises funds during the annual campaign to support local programming, United Way of the Titusville Region has worked with local businesses, governments, non-profits and schools to identify needs in our community and find solutions for our residents. 

Since 1998, United Way has implemented the following programs in our community: Back to Football youth fitness program as part of the NFL Play 60 program; development of the Titusville Regional Literacy Council; ensuring mental health and drug and alcohol services in the community; providing social work services for the Titusville Area School District elementary students; Born Learning Trail on the YWCA Property and, most recently, worked with Crawford Community Health Services to provide medical transportation to non-Medicaid residents. 

Under Wig’s leadership, the United Way began the Center for Financial Independence (CFI) to help hard working families to overcome financial crisis. CFI provides case management services to help meet immediate needs in coordination with partner organizations, provides budgeting, Career Link job search, provides free income tax prep as an IRS VITA Site, and helps clients with completion of property tax and rent rebates. The center serves approximately 700 families each year. 

The THS Student United Way was established in 2014 with a membership of 40-50 high school students participating in various community and volunteer programs. The most notable projects include Stuff the Bus school supply donation collection, reading days and book distributions, High School Heroes Kindergarten character education program and Sole Patrol service trips to Ecuador. 

In 2017, United Way of the Titusville Region took on the responsibility of being the lead agency for Crawford County in the implementation of the 2-1-1 system. 2-1-1 is a National call service, similar to 9-1-1, that provides information and referral for those seeking human services. 

United Way of the Titusville Region led the human services community through numerous difficult times including the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the housing crisis and economic downturn in 2008 and our downtown fire disasters of recent years and, now, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

United Way of the Titusville Region has supported programs provided by Associated Charities, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, YMCA and YWCA since 1945. Additional organizations currently receiving support include Family Services and Children’s Aid Society, Hospice of Crawford County, Titusville Senior Center, Community Health Services, Youth Connections, Center for Financial Independence and Titusville Regional Literacy Council. 

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