United Way turns 100


Photos by Cynthia Price


by Cynthia Price


It was the party of the century for the United Way of the Lakeshore.

Last Thursday night, the United Way pulled out all the stops for an enjoyable and informative time at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon.

It was way back in 1918 that the Muskegon area formed what was then called a War Chest for support of soldiers and their families. That name remained until 1939, when the organization came to be known as Greater Muskegon War, Community Progress and Charity Fund. In the 1950s it was known as Red Feather, Community Chest (as were many others throughout the country), and in the 1960s as the term “United Way” become popular in the United States, it became the United Appeal, and then the United Fund. It was not until 1990 that the name United Way of Greater Muskegon was adopted, and since that time it has become United Way of the Lakeshore through merging with the United Ways of Oceana and Newaygo Counties.

Whatever it’s called, the United Way has been tireless in raising funds to help everyone thrive.

Unlike some other United Way organizations, the Muskegon branch houses a labor component, and has since 1959.

Following a process where the community generates the United Way priorities, United Appeal/Fund/Way addressed juvenile delinquency and high unemployment in the 1960s, domestic violence and child abuse in the 1970s, single-parent families and health education/wellness in the 1980s, and children’s issues in the 1990s.

Christine Robere has been the President and CEO of the United Way since 2003, and she is deserving of much credit for how well the organization has done in recent years.
She has benefited from the assistance of dozens of community leaders, especially those who serve as chairs of the well-known company-based fund-raising campaign that takes place each year.

Robere oversaw the move to new headquarters in 2011 on Clay Avenue.

At the celebration, she seemed to be relaxed and having a great time, as did most of the hundreds of attendees.

There was an official presentation about United Way, but there were also reminders of its great history throughout the crowded event.

The same group of people who put on the annual City of the Dead cemetery tour, sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, were at the event in character, acting the part of key players in United Way’s story. There were a number of at-a-glance displays around the room, grouped by subject and displaying the name of the board chair by each highlighted year.

A recent focus of the United Way has been on the ALICE project, assisting families that are Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed. In 2015, the United Way adopted the goal of helping 10,000 more working families meet their basic needs by 2025.

It seems reasonable to expect that United Way of the Lakeshore will continue changing people’s lives for the better for another 100 years.