120 North 13th Street
Fort Smith, AR, 72901

History

In 1928, community leaders decided to form an organization — Community Chest — that would raise and distribute funds for needed services in Fort Smith. And over the years, people have donated more than $52,975,000 to support health and human services within our area.

Originally there were 13 local charities that received funds. The campaign, which ran from May 7-12, raised $54,946 under the leadership of Community Chest President Marshall Yantis.

View Original 13 Charities
  • Welfare Association
  • Boy Scouts
  • Rosalie Tilles Home
  • Playground Association
  • Salvation Army
  • Y.W.C.A.
  • Boy Rangers
  • Carnegie Library
  • Negro Welfare
  • Traveler’s Aid
  • Sparks Memorial
  • St. Edward Mercy Hospitals
  • Boys Club
Joining Yantis in 1928, was a “Committee of 21” with officers.
View Committee

Officers

  • George Carney, First Vice President
  • H. Frank Goodnow, Second Vice President
  • Louis Cohen, Secretary/Treasurer

Members

  • J. W. Ramsey
  • Cecil Warner
  • E. E. Weldon
  • W. H. Johnson
  • Allan Kennedy
  • Walter Hinton
  • C. F. Burns
  • H. J. Miller
  • M. J. Miller
  • A. Y. Berry
  • J. L. Swofford
  • Allen Henderson
  • Dr. M. E. Foster
  • W. T. Oglesby
  • I. H. Nakdimen
  • W. G. Shipley
  • Jack Adams
  • Rev. Wallace R. Bacon.

Air show launches United Fund

The Community Chest became the United Fund in the fall of 1962 under the leadership of Don Flanders. The United Fund included most or all of the individual campaigns previously made. The 1962 campaign had quite a kick-off with the Air Force “Thunderbirds”.

City National Bank (now BanCorp South) was the first to report a 100 percent employee participation with a total pledge of $3,629, with an employee average of $24 per person.

Name evolves to United Way

In 1977, Fort Smith started its annual United Way campaign with a raft race down the Arkansas River. Randy Ney, Campaign Chairman, set a goal of $600,000 to support the 20 agencies.

Service area expands

Originally there were 13 agencies with the number fluctuating over the years, then the number expanded to 29 with the addition of two agencies—The Fountain of Youth and the Boy and Girls Club of South Logan County.

In 1986, the admission of the South Sebastian County Youth Organization was accepted as an agency. This was considered a “bold effort.” by the United Way board—the first agency accepted outside Van Buren and Fort Smith.

In 2002, a campaign associate was hired to expand participation in the six counties the United Way serves— Crawford, Franklin, Logan and Sebastian in Arkansas and LeFlore and Sequoyah in Oklahoma.

New facility provides room

In 1988, with W.K. McGehee, Jr., as president, the United Way held an open house at a new location, 320 South 18th. Still serving as the United Way Service Center, the building was bought and remodeled with private endowments, without one dime coming from any campaign dollars. In 2001, Beverly Enterprises donated partition walls and workstations to upgrade and improve four office spaces.

United Way Endowment Established

In December of 1990, the United Way Board of Directors formed an endowment fund. The purpose of the United Way of Fort Smith Area, Inc. Endowment is to provide perpetual assistance to the United Way Service Center. By 2010 the Endowment had grown to an amount that could sustain the operations of the United Way Service Center, making it possible to allocate 100% of donations received throughout the annual campaign to United Way Partner Agencies and Initiatives.

Historic Flood

In 2019, the Fort Smith area witnessed history in the form of a flood along the Arkansas River. The river rose to a record 40.79 feet above normal levels. The Arkansas River, at its height, had a devastating impact on hundreds of homes, accounting for thousands of residents throughout the region. The effects of the flooding cost Arkansas and Oklahoma millions of dollars in economic impact. United Way of Fort Smith Area was the fiduciary of funds, provided affected residents with essential supplies, and led volunteer coordination for this historic event. Through private and public donations, along with a telethon broadcast on KFSM Channel 5, over $350,000 was raised and distributed to flood survivors.

Service Center Expands

In 2019, with Eddie Lee Herndon as President and CEO, a building dedication was held for the new Boreham-Jackson Building, which serves as the new office for the United Way of Fort Smith Area. The building was named in honor of Rollie “Bud” Boreham and S.W. “Bud” Jackson. Both gentlemen left legacy gifts that helped United Way purchase the building using no funds from annual campaign dollars. Additional organizations that made contributions to the building fund were Arvest Foundation, First National Bank of Fort Smith, Landmark CPA’s, OG&E, Rheem, and Weldon, Williams & Lick.

Community Impact

At United Way of Fort Smith Area, we believe that working together is the best way to measurably improve people’s lives in our six-county area. With your financial investment, you become a vital part of the United Way effort and have the greatest impact on improving lives by creating long-term and lasting change in conditions such as early childhood literacy, kindergarten readiness and homelessness.

Volunteers make the difference

United Way could not be successful in its efforts to help people in this area if it were not for the hard work and dedication of committed volunteers.