United Way of West Tennessee’s presence in the Jackson and surrounding areas dates back to Fall of 1941. In its beginning stages, our work is branded as Community Chest. On December 7th of that same year, our media friends at the Jackson Sun printed an article on Jackson’s first-ever charity campaign - "Community Chest Workers Must Raise $12,000 Before the Final Dinner Meeting Tuesday Night at the New Southern Hotel if They are to Call it a Victory Meeting." The organization more than doubled their goal for the inaugural campaign in the first eight days, raising $25,666. The first agencies to receive funding were the YMCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Local Charity Relief Organization.
In 1958, Community Chest changed its name to the United Way Fund. That year, the annual campaign raised upward of $100,000. By the seventies, the campaign (chaired by Joe Exum) was raising more than $200,000 each year, and the United Way Fund had again rebranded as simply “United Way.” By the early eighties, the campaign was still experiencing exponential growth—over a half million dollars raised annually.
The eighties were a time of great prosperity for United Way, as the organization also grew to encompass the first campaign outside of Jackson—Gibson County. In 1983 the campaigns, raising $680,550 in Madison County and $175,000 in Gibson County, were chaired by Bobby Carter. The next year Roger Murray chaired the local campaign that nearly doubled the previous year's total. The campaign reached $1 million for the first time. In 1985 McNairy County campaign was added, and the next year United Way of West Tennessee added Weakley and Henderson Counties, creating a five-county service area. In addition, Hardeman, Haywood, Carroll, Dyer, and Crockett counties were all added before 1992. The total raised that year was over $2.7 million in all counties served.
Soon after, United Way of West Tennessee entered new territory as Kate Campbell Robertson's estate donated nearly $912,000 to create an endowment fund to help underprivileged children in Jackson.
In 1998, United Way of West Tennessee, along with over 100 agencies, responded to a tornado by organizing an eleven-agency partnership called the Disaster Recovery Services. Together, the agencies were able to distribute more than $200,000 to effected families. The next year, United Way of West Tennessee raised a record $3.66 million.
In 2006, United Way of West Tennessee began partnering with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in order to make Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) available to low-income families.
United Way of West Tennessee continued to expand its services, and in 2007 launched 2-1-1, a health and human service referral line to support its simple mission: to connect people and resources to build a stronger, healthier community. By 2008, the 2-1-1 program was processing over 5,000 calls annually.
In 2008, United Way of West Tennessee teamed up with Familywize to help the uninsured and those without prescription coverage obtain lower cost prescription medications.
2009 brought with it the establishment of UWWT’s Tocqueville Society, which was established for individuals who donate $10,000 or more. The four founding members were James W. Ayers, Nancy Smith, Mr. & Mrs. Duane Campbell and one anonymous donor. The same year, four counties were added to the UWWT service area: Chester, Decatur, Henry and Lake. This brought the total service area to our current 14 counties. UWWT also worked with Jackson Energy Authority, West Tennessee Healthcare Foundation, and Area Relief Ministries to create the 'Round-Up' program in Madison County. In the first year, more than $230,000 was raised to be used in a local utility assistance program.
Severe flooding hit West and Middle Tennessee in May of 2010. 11 of the 14 counties in United Way's service area were declared national disaster areas, and were served by the Disaster Recovery Services. The United Way took the lead to assist in creating a DRS in Haywood County.
UWWT has remained true to its longstanding tradition of creating innovative services and programs to build a stronger, healthier community. This year, President / CEO Scott Conger launched the site volunteerwtn.com—a site to connect volunteers to opportunities in West Tennessee.