United Way of Pierce County History - Through the Years

It all started with a letter…and an idea...

The letter was sent February 14, 1921, by Helen C. Dobson and Anna L. Post. The two expressed concerns about how various organizations in Tacoma may be duplicating efforts and competing for funds in the community. 

Yours respectfully,

Helen C. Dobson
Executive Secretary
Tacoma Chapter, American Red Cross

Anna L. Post
Chairman Junior Red Cross
Supervisor Home Economics
Tacoma Public Schools

Downtown Tacoma

The letter invited representatives from 24 organizations doing social work in Tacoma to a meeting at the Tacoma Commercial Club to discuss whether there could be “some method devised for closer cooperation, a raising of standards of family social work and a clean house established to avoid duplications.”

After much discussion among those in the meeting, it was clear that the answer to that question was a resounding “YES.”  (Photo 1.2)

That pivotal meeting led to the creation of the Federation of Social Agencies of Tacoma as well as to the establishment of a Community Chest for fundraising efforts. Over the years, these two programs evolved into what we know today as United Way of Pierce County.

Click on the various time periods shown on this page to see some “snapshots” of the evolution of our organization and our community. You will also learn more about the people, programs and ideas that have helped us create possibilities together for more than 100 years. 

PHOTOS (Top): The Tacoma Building, home of the Tacoma Commercial Club. The Tacoma Hotel can be seen in the left side of this 1928 photo. (Bottom): Members of the United Way Board show off their LIVE UNITED shirts (left to right): Dona Haynes, Dr. George Tanbara, Rick Meeder and Debra Young.        


Photo credits (top to bottom): Northwest Room at Tacoma Public Library, Chapin Bowen Collection TPL-6247; United Way photo.