History of United Way of South Mississippi

United Way of South Mississippi was legally incorporated in June 1992 with the merger of three smaller United Ways in Hancock, Harrison and Pearl River Counties. The boards of the three United Ways voted to merge to consolidate operations, trim costs and reduce confusion for business donors and charities operating in more than one county. Although 1992 was the legal beginning of this United Way, the foundation was laid 40 years prior with the founding of the Community Chest of Gulfport, Long Beach, Handsboro and Mississippi City in 1952. United Funds were established in Biloxi in 1957, South Pearl River County in 1961 and Hancock County in 1964.

As a worldwide organization, United Way’s mission is to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities to advance the common good. United Way began out of necessity; prior to Community Chests and United Funds, nonprofit agencies conducted their own fundraising campaigns to support their missions. Agencies competed for contributions, and businesses and individuals were besieged with charitable requests. United Way organizes one fundraising drive as an answer to the waste and frustration of competing appeals for funds.

In 1992, there were approximately 200,000 nonprofit agencies, and 40,000 of those were funded by local United Way organizations. United Way refined its mission and became the catalyst to help communities set their human care agenda and then work together to carry it out. No other group seeks this role, and no other nonprofit has the resources to bring to the task. United Way is now focusing on building community, not just supporting individual agencies, and the worldwide organization seeks measurable results, not just good effort.

United Way of South Mississippi is proud to join hands with United Way Worldwide, with community partners and with generous donors, to rally resources, collaboratives and leadership to improve the quality of life in south Mississippi.

Present Day

United Way of South Mississippi still serves Hancock, Harrison, Pearl River and Stone 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 numerous 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.

Total books given out to date through Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

Volunteers from April 2022-May 2023

Dollars Invested in our Communities over the Past Year



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