Although 1992 marked the beginning of UWSM, the foundation was laid 30 years prior.
• 1961: The Kiwanis Club and the Picayune Chamber of Commerce filed with the Secretary of State to begin The United Fund of South Pearl River County, Inc.
• 1964: Hancock County followed with the charter of The United Fund of Hancock County. This charter followed requests by employees at Stennis Space Center for a campaign to raise money for needs in the community. After the initial fundraising efforts at Stennis, the organization continued to grow throughout the county.
• 1970’s: The name was changed to United Way of Hancock County.
• 1965: The United Fund of Harrison County formed with the merger of the Gulfport Community Chest and the Biloxi United Fund.
• 1992: United Way of South Mississippi (UWSM) began operation under the New Articles of Incorporation in June. This legal action merged three smaller United Ways, representing the citizens and agencies in Pearl River, Hancock, and Harrison Counties. The Boards of the three United Ways voted to merge to consolidate operations, trim costs, and reduce confusion for business donors and community partners operating in more than one county.
• 2005: Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast. Despite suffering a complete loss of its office building in Gulfport, United Way continued to keep its funding commitments to local health and human service programs, in addition to leading long-term recovery coalitions.
• 2007: UWSM created its Volunteer Center, in response to the need of individual volunteers, out-of-area group volunteers, and corporate volunteers to find and connect with quality volunteer opportunities in our community.
• 2010: BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This man-made disaster greatly devastated the South Mississippi fishing industry, and UWSM has worked with its sister organizations in Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida to gain a regional perspective on natural and man-made disasters.
United Way of South Mississippi still serves Hancock, Harrison, Stone, & Pearl River Counties, in addition to encouraging partnerships and collaborations with United Ways to our east and west.
The work of thousands of volunteers and the generosity of over 4,000 contributors to the annual campaigns demonstrate our mission to “rally resources, collaboratives, and leadership to improve the quality of life in South Mississippi.” Our vision, revised in 2012, is clear: we are improving outcomes in education, income, and health for everyone in South Mississippi by giving children and families the tools and support they need to thrive in our community.” By partnering with donors, employers, nonprofits, faith groups and government agencies, United Way brings a coordinated approach to solving community problems.
Click here to read the history of United Way Worldwide, our trade organization.