Live United! The History of United Way in Lee County

United Way of Lee County has a long-standing history in the community. It was originally founded in 1958 as Dixon’s first community trust. Throughout the county, communities generally adopted either a “Community Chest” or a “United Fund” as a local fund drive. The first campaign held in Dixon was called “Everybody-Benefits-Everybody Gives.” The community wide effort sought to reduce the many individual fundraising efforts by local nonprofits. The consolidation of their efforts benefited all of the nonprofits in the community. Eight Dixon organizations received funding from the first October 1958 drive: The Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Goodfellows, Jaycees Baseball (later know was Al Morrison Baseball), Dixon Youth Center (later known as the Dixon Family YMCA), and Truman School (later know as Kreider Services).

In 1965, the Dixon Community Chest changed its identity to the Dixon United Fund, joining the growing United Fund movement around the United States. By 1968, the organization’s 10-year anniversary, the number of Dixon United Fund agencies had grown to 14.

In 1983, the organization officially changed its name to the Dixon Area United Way. This new name reflected the expanded reach of the organization to the “Dixon Area,” and joined the nation’s growing number of “United Funds” that had changed to United Ways. The 1983 organization supported 19 agencies.

In 2000, the Dixon Area United Way officially became the United Way of Lee County. The move reflected the expanded areas that were benefitting from United Way dollars. The new name also helped pave the way for expanded efforts in more Lee County communities.

To date, United Way of Lee County currently helps support 29 local nonprofit organizations. United Way works within the community to optimize collective resources to support vital community programs and services. Each year nonprofit organizations can apply for funding, and United Way seeks to support programs in the areas of Health, Education, Financial Stability and Quality of Life. We believe that when everyone has the opportunity to succeed and can access vital resources, our community wins. United Way is here to fill gaps in the community and ensure that programs are able to operate and provide services and programs to those that may not be able to afford them otherwise. United Way currently helps fund a 2-1-1 help line. This help line is available to anyone in Lee County free of charge. It is available 24/7 and is a confidential helpline that people can call to access/seek out programs and services. This help line can help connect individuals to mental health services, food, shelter, rent assistance, medical assistance, senior services and more. We are so proud to be able to fund this helpline in our county. Every month, we are able to see reports on the number of people who called the helpline and what areas of need they were requesting. We have seen that most recently, residents in Lee County have been calling to inquire about rent and housing assistance. This is helpful to us as an organization because we can see areas of need in our community.

United Way of Lee County fully operates on donations and grant funding. We are not able to do what we do in the community without community support. Our tagline is “Live United” and it truly is a statement that reflects a collective approach to addressing community problems. We always say that no donation is too small, and every dollar truly does make a difference. When many people come together, we are able to do so much more together, as a community! I am sure you are wondering how you can get involved and help support United Way! A few ways that you can get involved are by making a monetary donation. You can give online at www.unitedwayofleecounty.org. You can also follow us on Facebook to stay up to date on all of our upcoming events. We are also always looking to partner with local businesses on Shop or Dine United Days. These are when we partner with a business to hold a shop or dine event. You pick a day, and we will help promote it. Then a percentage of all proceeds is donated back to United Way. This is a great way to get involved and show your support within the community.

We are very excited about our upcoming “Back to the 90’s” Trivia Night. This fundraising event will take place on Thursday, January 25th at the Post House Ballroom at 5:30pm. Sam Ramirez will be our emcee and cost is $150 for a team of 6 people. All the money raised will help benefit United Way of Lee County. We will have prizes for the first-place team, best team name, best 90’s outfit and lowest team score. We want to thank the Lee County Bar Association for sponsoring the event, and hope that you can join us for this fun upcoming event! You can register your team online at www.unitedwayofleecounty.org.