Becoming United Way of Kaw Valley
In September 2022, United Way of Douglas County merged with United Way of Greater Topeka to form United Way of Kaw Valley (UWKV). UWKV serves as a grant maker, community convenor, volunteer organizer and strategic partner for the nonprofit sector in Shawnee, Douglas, Jackson and Jefferson counties in northeast Kansas. Donor dollars are invested locally and support a broad range of initiatives that benefit the whole family in education, financial stability and health, as well as racial equity and family supports/basic needs.
History of United Way of Greater Topeka
For more than 80 years, United Way of Greater Topeka has been improving and changing lives. It began during the Great Depression when a local Community Chest was founded to bring hope and prosperity to the community. Through recessions and depressions, in times of peace and war, and during local disasters, United Way and its partners stepped in and rose to the challenge.
As years passed, this organization was renamed Topeka United Funds, Inc. It was under this namesake the organization faced a monumental challenge: aiding the community after the infamous 1966 tornado.
In 1975 the organization became known as United Way of Greater Topeka facilitating volunteerism and coordinating advocacy efforts on local, state and national levels. In 2012, the organization shifted its focus to Community Impact, focusing on education, income and health and partnering with community organizations in an effort to create positive sustainable change in the community.
In 2012, United Way of Greater Topeka began serving Jackson County which had previously been served by a volunteer United Way.
History of United Way of Douglas County
The Community Chest was established in 1940 by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce as the first organized group fund-raising effort in Douglas County. That initial effort raised $9,000 to meet various needs of Lawrence residents. Phog Allen, the Father of basketball, was the Chair of the University of Kansas section, raising funds to help in our community, creating a lasting impression on Jayhawks and Douglas County alike
During the early 1950s, a different focus for the group led to a new structure for the organization and the name was changed to Lawrence United Fund. The first meeting of the Lawrence United Fund was held October 1, 1956. Eleven member agencies participated, setting a goal of $46,000.
In December, 1986, the Board of Directors voted to change the name to United Way of Douglas County, to reflect the population served by member agencies.
By 1990, the Roger Hill Volunteer Center was established. It was inspired by the vision of a Douglas County resident who believed that each one of us has the ability to make a difference in our community through volunteering. Roger Hill, a longtime plant manager at Hallmark Cards, Inc., was a strong advocate for community service and inspired the current name.
Most recently in 2020, we established The Racial Equity Grant in an effort to combat systemic inequities within Douglas County. Taking action and not standing by doing “business as usual” when that perpetuates racial or other forms of inequities.