1981-2000: A $5 million campaign, a new headquarters and the Olympic torch

5 Million

In November 1986, a jubilant crowd cheered the $5 million campaign total at a victory celebration for the United Way of Pierce County campaign. The funds were used to support more than 97 programs and agencies throughout Pierce County. It was estimated that 177,000 people were helped by those programs in 1985.

In 1992, United Way of Pierce County bought the office building located at 1501 Pacific Avenue in downtown Tacoma and transformed part of it into its new headquarters. Additional space was developed and made available to other non-profit agencies. 


The building was named the Sprague Building in honor of General John Sprague, who had served in the Civil War, worked for the Northern Pacific Railway and was also Tacoma’s first mayor.

1994 - With Rick Allen as CEO (1993-2013), & Charley & Barbara Bingham as first United Way co-Chairs. campaign broke $7 million.  As CEO of Untied Way for 21years Rick has been able to turn his own childhood experience into a passion for early education and early childhood development.  In 1993 when Rick became CEO, United Way was not as clearly focused on the impact donations were making.  Today through Rick’s vision and the hard-work of staff and board, United Way is focused on making an impact in Early Childhood Development, Early Grade Excellence and Strengthening Families. As Rick puts it, “we still want to provide services for basic needs and people in crisis, but we want to focus more intentionally to start catching people before they start falling off the cliff.    To be effective in that effort, you have to reach kids and their families very early.”  In recognition of Rick’s early work to focus United Way more on outcomes and indicators of success, and to move United Way to a more prevention orientation, Rick was selected as one of the Pierce County’s first Business Leaders of the Year in 2001 by the Business Examiner in collaboration with the University Of Washington School of Business.

Rick Allen


On May 7, 1996 hundreds of people gathered along Pacific Avenue to cheer on runners in the Olympic Torch Relay. United Way of Pierce County had the task of setting up a volunteer committee of adults and children to review hundreds of applications and choose the “community heroes” who proudly carried the torch on part of its journey from Athens to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.  

Olympic Torch

Day of Caring

The kickoff event for the 1997 United Way fundraising campaign took place at Cheney Stadium. Seattle Sonics coach George Karl was the keynote speaker. Bil and Harold Moss co-chaired the campaign, which had a goal of raising $2.1 million. PICTURED (left to right): Bil Moss, Roy Kimbel, Rick Allen, Harold Moss and George Karl).  




“At the Heart of the Solution” was a new logo and communications/marketing campaign developed by United Way of Pierce County staff and its marketing committee in 1999. The slogan was used until it was replaced in 2008 by the LIVE UNITED branding program developed by United Way Worldwide. 

At the Heart of the Solution Brochure

Photo credits (top to bottom): Tacoma News Tribune, November 20, 1986; United Way photo; United Way photo; United Way photo; United Way graphic.