United Way of Pierce County Celebrates 100 Years

Over $350 million dollars has been reinvested in Pierce County since 1921 when the United Way of Pierce County (UWPC) was formed.  Originally known as the Federation of Social Service Agencies, the organization was born out of the necessity to better coordinate the work of several Tacoma social agencies to avoid duplication and serve more people.

How does an organization like the United Way of Pierce County that gives so much celebrate something as momentous as a 100-year anniversary?  Well, that’s easy.  They give some more.  

On May 14, to honor the first day in 1921 the Federation of Social Service Agencies held an official meeting complete with officers, the UWPC will be collecting non-perishable food to feed families in need from locations throughout Pierce County from 11am to 2pm.  For more information, go to united-way-pierce-county-turns-100-years-old.

This first event will be followed by two other celebratory events including a Public Kickoff in September, followed by a Gala Dinner in 2022.

Looking back through the years to 1921 is interesting, but UWPC is highly focused on looking forward with their “15,000 by 2028” pledge.

“At United Way of Pierce County, we have a long, rich history of mobilizing the caring power of our community and we’re committed to lifting 15,000 families out of poverty and into financial stability by 2028, one family at a time,” said Dona Ponepinto, President and CEO of United Way of Pierce County.

As of this writing, UWPC is well on its way to exceeding that goal with more than 4,300 families moving towards self-sufficiency since the pledge was made in 2018.   In partnership with the community, Ponepinto and her team are meeting this goal in three ways.

Through partnerships with seven trusted community organizations, the United Way of Pierce County’s Center for Strong Families helps struggling, local families improve their financial bottom line with one-on-one mentoring and coaching.  The program helps clients get jobs, increase their income, decrease their expenses, build their credit and acquire assets.

By investing in basic needs through a wide range of community organizations, UWPC helps cover critical needs like food, health care, childcare and shelter.  When a family’s basic needs are met, they can move out of crisis and prevent future crisis through greater stability.

And then, there’s United Way’s South Sound 211 — a free helpline to connect people in need with critical community resources and provide navigation services for behavioral health, housing, transportation, and employment. 

After nearly 30 years in existence, the mission of 211 expanded as it began tackling COVID-19 issues in addition to housing and other needs it typically handles.  South Sound 211 was instrumental in meeting the challenges faced during the pandemic.  As part of the WA211 Network, 211 was activated to respond to calls for the Washington State Department of Health (WSDOH) COVID-19 Hotline, resulting in expanded hours of operation, and the hiring and training of additional staff and volunteers.  Supporting Pierce, Thurston and Lewis Counties, 211 connected more than 79,000 people (60,000 via the hotline number) in 2020.

According to Pete Grignon, Chief Financial Officer of United Way of Pierce County with over 33 years of tenure, “It really is about finding the best way to help the most people.”  

United Way of Pierce County