The United Way of Colquitt County became an organization under that name in 1957, but it actually had its beginnings more than a decade earlier. In 1943, Colquitt County organized for the United War Fund effort. The goal was $12,000 to provide comforts for men and women in armed services and to assist destitute allied civilians. W. E. Young and H. S. Cohen were the chair and co-chairmen for the fund. Then in October of that year, Emergency Relief and Boy Scouts joined their fund drives with the war fund and the goal was now $17,000.
So in November of that year the Community Chest was formed and Mr. E. M. Vereen, Mr. W. J. Vereen gave personal gifts to the fund as well as corporate gifts from Riverside Manufacturing. Moultrie Banking Company which later became C & S and then Bank of America, was another of the first donors to the fund. Many others donated to the fund and most gifts were listed in the newspaper even those individuals who gave $1.
By 1945, T. T. Sloan was chairman and the goal was $28,000 and it is the last year of the War Fund Drive. . The YMCA, Cancer Control, Girl Scouts, and Infantile Paralysis were added to the fund.
By 1952 the goal is $45,000 and United Givers was first established. The fund drive was for 16 organizations and Marion Sirmons was the chairman. This was the Red Feather drive, the red feather is the symbol of service of sharing and caring.
There were 14 member agencies and Marion Sirmans stated “The multiplicity of money raising drives in past years has resulted in the forming of a single organization devoted to the purpose of adequately supporting these community service agencies.”
By 1957, Hinton Reeves is the campaign chair and the first use of “United Way” has arrived. The goal was $45,000 that year and Jack Smith was the president. This is the beginning of the use of payroll deduction for contributions and the mayor, Willie B. Withers, proclaimed the week of October 28, 1957 as United Givers week. United Way of Colquitt County was organized under that name, but the United Givers name was still used for several more years. Mr. Hinton Reeves, who was the Campaign Chair for 1957, said the campaign was known as the Thirteen and One Fund for the thirteen agencies to be supported by the goal of $45,000. One group of donors was the Hawthorne Flight School at Spence Field which gave $4000. “It is interesting to note at that time the Hawthorne had pilots from Greece, Columbia, Ecuador, Pakistan, Vietnam, Iraq, Spain, New Zealand and Korea, and these foreign students participated in the drive that year”, Hinton Reeves said. When the results were announced and they were slightly short of the goal, more donations came in and the campaign goal was achieved. “These events are very similar to our current campaigns where the community rallies to help meet the goal”, said Angela Castellow current director.
By 1959, Robert Duggan is the chairman and the members of the Moultrie Service League assisted in the cleanup phase of the campaign. Duggan appealed to citizens and businesses to be ready when these ladies call on them.
In 1960, Craig Ray, Jr. is the chairman and Ernest Napier and Hal Yates are battalion commanders, with Herman Friedlander as the regimental commander. After the briefing session with other company commanders they fanned out into the community for their “Sweep” to raise funds for United Way with a goal of $49,500.
In the beginning years and into the 60s the organizations efforts were led by volunteers who worked diligently for their community. Their overall theme was to meet the goal in a short time-so attention can be directed to other important community work. One fundraiser to serve many organizations. During the early years the campaign headquarters was always the Hotel Colquitt.
By 1965 the goal has risen to $62,000 and Frank Pidcock is the President and Jim Goff was the campaign chair. For several years the goal remained in the $60,000 – $70,000 range.
In 1970, Bill Anderson was director and Sandra Plant was secretary to the fund and the goal was $68,000. The organization and board was reorganized and the office moved into the Chamber of Commerce and we have come full circle, because we are back in the Chamber building today. Bill Anderson worked diligently on the campaign and Sandra worked on the books. Bill Anderson retired and then Sandra was director for a couple of years and she began the promotion of the corporate match to payroll deduction from the companies. Then in the late 70s Julia McLaughlin became the executive director and worked for United Way for 8 years and returned after a few years to work for 3 more years. She said the goal her first year was only $60,000. But by 1980, John Clark was the chairman and the goal rose to $100,000. Julia worked the loaned executive program and developed a strong volunteer team. At that time the GTE Corporate offices were here and they provided great support to United Way as well as our banks, Riverside and Destiny. The community continued to support the effort and the goal grew over the years in spite of slumps in the economy. Julia also began filming the United Way videos locally.and the goal reached $200,000 during her years.
Other directors for United Way of Colquitt County were Cathy Crowdis and Peggy Jolley who filled in during Julias absence. Then after Julia retired, Connie Fritz served as the director from 1993-1996. Connie took the goal to $250,000 during her years and had the huge task of organizing the Olympic Torch event which came through Moultrie in 1996.
Angela Castellow, served as the director from 1996 – 2018. During her time as director, she began holding the Day of Caring for our agencies in 1997 and watched the campaign goal climb to over $200,000. Then in 2002 we raised over $300,000 and in 2008 the goal went to $445,000.
In 2018, Caroline Horne became the Executive Director. A three year strategic plan was devised to strengthen the organization through branding, updated media presence, cultivating new donors and a sense of assessing new needs in the community. Two organizations were awarded with Community Impact Grants – Family Connection’s Colquitt County Baby Book and Colquitt Regional Medical Center’s Health Occupations Internship and Math Enrichment Program. Also, during 2018, United Way of Colquitt County gave three Special Grants to help the following oraganizations: Moultrie YMCA Downtown Expansion; Green Oaks Center van transportation; and Cross Road Gospel Rescue Mission bathroom renovations.
2018 we had a campaign goal of $555,000 for the 2019 campaign. Over half a million dollars given that continues to stay within this county. Even though our county was hit hard by Hurrican Michael, the goal was reached at the last minute through various provate donors.
In 2019 – 2020, we went completely digital with our application processes and our bi-monthly board meeting materials. Our website was revamped and rebranded with additional resources for the community and board members. Donors can now contribute to our organization online with a credit card option with the ability to designate funds to a specific entity. Our annual Day of Action served 10 nonprofits through hands on volunteer service with over 125 volunteers. The United Way of Colquitt County today provides funding to 20 member agencies in addition to managing a disaster fund as well as the Tommy Bender Scout fund. Our United Way along with local leaders serves as the Emergency Food and Shelter Board (EFSP) to disburse federal funds allocated to our jurisdiction from Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) through EFSP National Board.
The 2020 Campaign Goal was set at $555,000 for the second year in a row. The goal was not only hit but surpassed $700,000! Spring of 2020 brought unprecedented times trying to combat the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) while assessing community needs. Allocations for the 2020 year to allocate funding for the 2021 year will be held through virtual meetings. Though we are in unchartered territory, we have high hopes for our community to push through the pandemic and come out stronger than ever!