2001-2020: 2-1-1, LIVE UNITED and Center for Strong Families


On January 17, 2001, hundreds of people attended United Way’s “Warm Your Heart” event in downtown Tacoma. Many attendees brought coats, gloves, socks and other clothing items that were distributed to individuals who were struggling to stay warm that winter.

Warm Your He3art Celebration


United Way led the effort to create the 2-1-1 program in 2006. Every day, hundreds of people in Pierce, Lewis and Thurston County turn to 2-1-1 for information and support--whether it’s financial, domestic, health or disaster. This free service connects people to specialists who work to find them the critical help they need.  2-1-1 supports 90,000 Pierce County callers a year. 

In 2007, United Way launched the collaborative Early Learning Initiative, which brought the community together to focus resources on early childhood education. This effort also led to the formation of the First Five Fundamentals effort to advance early learning throughout Pierce County. 

First Five Fundamentals

The Band

The new LIVE UNITED brand was launched by United Way Worldwide in 2008. The following year, the new brand was also the theme of United Way’s Community Celebration. The evening included the debut of an original LIVE UNITED song, written by Rod Koon, and performed by The Possible Solutions band. UWPC won a national award for how effectively it handled the introduction of the new brand. 


Dona joined UWPC in January of 2014 and brings over 30 years of experience within the United Way network and a long history of working on behalf of children and their families.

Since taking the reins in Pierce County, Dona led a ground-breaking three-state research project on the financial stability of families, convened the Hunger-Free Pierce County collaborative and secured funding for Centers for Strong Families. She has also been very active in the community, holding community conversations each year since joining the organization, engaging with CEOs, public leaders and agency partners, and serving on several committees and special projects.


Food Bank Van

United Way of Pierce County recognizes that hunger is a key issue—since more than 120,000 people, including 42,000 children—are at risk of going hungry in our community. That’s why it worked with other organizations in 2015 to form the Hunger-Free Pierce County Collaborative to focus on efforts designed to end hunger.

In 2015, we commissioned an ALICE study, which refers to the populations in our communities who are AssetLimited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. The ALICE® population represents those among us who are working, but due to child care costs, transportation challenges, high cost of living and so much more are living paycheck to paycheck. 


Center for Strong Families

In 2016, United Way of Pierce County launched the Center for Strong Families initiative to improve family economic success. Since 2016, more than 2,000 families have enrolled in services offered by the center. In 2019, United Way received a grant for $1 million from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation to expand this program.

Galvanizing the community around the social, human and economic impact of poverty in Pierce County, UWPC has committed to a bold goal of lifting 15,000 families out of poverty by 2028 by moving them into financial stability.  UWPC held our First From Poverty to Possibilities Summit in 2017. The featured speaker for the event was Mia Birdsong, a family and community visionary who has spent more than 20 years fighting for the self-determination, and pointing out the brilliant adaptations, of everyday people. 

Mia Birdsong

From Poverty to Possibilities Summit has been held annually.

2018 - Keynote speaker - Micheal McAfee - Dr. Michael McAfee, is President and CEO of PolicyLink, a national research and action organization dedicated to advancing racial and economic equity by Lifting Up What Works®.

2019 - Keynote Speaker - Maurice A. Jones - Maurice is the president & CEO of Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Prior to this role, he served as the secretary of commerce for the Commonwealth of Virginia, where he managed 13 state agencies focused on the economic needs in his native state. 

2020 - Keynote Speaker - Dr. Wendy Ellis - Wendy Ellis is the Director of the Center for Community Resilience at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George
Washington University. The Building Community Resilience (BCR) collaborative and networks are implementing the BCR process -- a strategic approach for cross-sector partners to align resources, programs and initiatives with community based efforts to address adverse childhood experiences and adverse community environments-- or as Ellis has coined it "The Pair of ACEs".

Michael McAfeemarcus jonesWendy Ellis

Photo credits (top to bottom): Rod Koon photo; United Way photo; United Way photo;