In October 1963, the first United Fund of Rhea County was incorporated by Fed C. Robinson, C.P. Swafford, Elmer Kelly, S.E. Nichols, Ben Purser, Virgil R. Peters, and C.O. Vaughn Jr. In 1986, The United Fund of Rhea County evolved into The United Way of Rhea County, led by a volunteer board of 15 directors, living or working within Rhea County. The objective of the United Way in Rhea County is to ensure accountability to the community for the distribution of monies for services and to begin ensuring that all human service needs found in Rhea County are met.
The 1986 Campaign was run entirely by the Board of Directors, who approached only a limited segment of the community. The larger industries and banks were solicited, as well as a few other companies. The board raised almost $60,000 in the first campaign.
The United Way has broadened its objectives in order that everyone in the community could participate in ensuring that the human and health care service needs of the county were maintained within Rhea County.
In 1986, the United Way helped support 16 agencies that provided life-enhancing projects in Rhea County in the areas of childhood and adult education, domestic violence recovery and prevention, and financial stability.
September of 1987, the United Way opened an office on the corner of Market and Main Street in downtown Dayton and hired an Executive Secretary to manage the office. A few years later the office moved to 231 Delaware Avenue where if remained for 18 years. In 2015 the United Way of Rhea County office moved into the current location of the 224 4th Ave, Suite 101. The location is ideal for clients it serves as it is located next to Human Services and the Career Center for job placement.
In May 1989, a Campaign Director was hired to run the campaign; there was a full time secretary and a part-time campaign director, who was employed for one year. In June 1990, Carol Ricketts was hired as Executive Director; Carol ran both the campaign and the United Way office until September 1993, when a Green Thumb worker began working part time until February 2001. August 2001, Kristi James was hired by the United Way as a part-time employee. In 2004, Executive Director Christine Ralph and Administrative Assistant Cynthia Travis were hired on to run the office. In 2019, Cynthia retired and Angela Drake started as the Administrative Assistant. In March 2021, Christine Ralph retired and Tonya Connell took over as the Executive Director.
A fund raising campaign is run from early fall through November of each year. Co-Campaign Chairpersons and volunteers run the campaign with the support of the United Way staff.
Following the campaign, volunteers from the community, called the Community Investment Committee, come together to review the request forms that have been submitted by local agencies. The panel members are asked to contact or visit the agencies that have been assigned to them. Next, the panel listens to presentation by each agency as to why they need the funding and how it will be used to benefit residents of Rhea County. After hearing from each requesting agency, the Community Investment Committee will decide - based on the services provided and the number of people that receive those services, plus meeting the needs of Rhea County - how to best distribute the current campaign funds for that physical year. This recommendation is then presented to the full United Way Board by the Chair. The board members make the final decision concerning the allocation process.
In the 1986 campaign $60,000 was raised and in the campaign for 2001, a grand total of $226,625 was raised. In 2007, the highest amount of campaign money raised, resulting in $242,100. However, due to the economic recession, there was a slow annual decline and the campaign total in 2014 was $219,204. In 2021, staff and volunteers were able to raise over $230,000 to support Rhea County residents in need.
Your generous support works year-round making our community a better place to live, work, and raise our children. We strive to provide solutions related to our three core areas: Education, Health, and Financial Stability.
It has been said that the United Way is the table at which the community sits to work on solving its problems. No gift could be more important than your gift to the United Way. You can make a difference, because local people know how to make it work for local people.
We believe in intentionally making decisions that provide fair treatment, access and opportunity for all people.
Our Challenge: Every dollar is needed to assure that vital community services continue to exist. With the down turn in our economy, providing services is harder than ever while the demand continues to grow. Everyone in our community, in some way, is touched by United Way supported programs or services. When people face difficult times, these agencies, programs and services are needed more than ever.