Among the incredible flood relief efforts we've seen in the late months of 2011, we saw the work of the United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties team up with the Central New York Radio Group in September. Together they raised more than $50,000 for aiding victims of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Those totals have recently surpassed $80,000.

The United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties was under a different name in 1921, getting its debut in October of that year as Community Chest. The name may have since changed but the mission _ to help the health and social welfare of the area _ has not.

While new to Oneonta, Community Chest had been founded in 1913 in Cleveland by the Foundation for Charity and Philanthropy. The number of Community Chest organizations increased from about 40 to 350 between 1919 and 1929 and Oneonta was one of those communities.

During 1921, the officers and committee members of Oneonta's Community Chest had formed, with Earle W. Elmore as the first chairman. The first large public meeting to explain and gain support for a campaign was called for on Sunday, Oct. 23, at the Oneonta Theatre.

A short concert of sacred music was performed by the Oneonta Theatre Orchestra, under the direction of Albert J. Smaldone, to open the meeting. An inspirational speaker of his day, Dr. Henry Gaines Hawn of the Hawn School of Oratory in New York was a featured guest. The purpose of Community Chest was then explained, to combine 10 fundraising campaigns into one and how the 10 organizations benefited Oneonta.

The initial campaign aimed to raise $30,000. Nearly 100 workers began a canvass of homes on Monday, Oct. 24, led by 12 men and 12 women as captains. The organizations to benefit were the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, Family Social Work Association, Girl Scouts, Oneonta Community Association, Salvation Army, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Tuberculosis Committee and the YMCA.

"Keep Oneonta Unashamed" was the slogan for the initial campaign. A large display ad in the Oneonta Star appeared on Oct. 24 had this bold title, and the copy beneath began,

"In a world of want and suffering, Oneonta, always responsive to Humanity's Call, stands unashamed."

The first day of the drive netted $1,015. The report on Nov. 8 had a total of more than $16,000 in donations. That was the last published total. Apparently the $30,000 goal wasn't reached. When the 1922 campaign was launched, the number of volunteer canvassers was vastly increased and the total aimed for was "at least $19,965."

The name Community Chest was changed for a brief time to The Neighborhood Association of Oneonta. Its first campaign in 1936 aimed to meet budget deficits of seven of the aforementioned organizations.

At some point the Community Chest name resumed and carried from the 1940s through the 1980s. Around the country the Community Chest name began changing to United Way in 1963. It wasn't until August 1983 that Oneonta changed its name to the United Way of Greater Oneonta and that autumn campaign would be called the 1984 Campaign. A $110,000 goal was set.

The United Way expanded into other communities in the late 1980s including Cooperstown and Delhi, thus prompting the name change in 1989 to the present United Way of Delaware and Otsego Counties. The offices, which had been in the Wilber mansion on Ford Avenue for many years, moved to the Frances E. Rowe House at 36 Maple St., in 1992.

On Monday: A busy life for our area in October 1946.

City Historian Mark Simonson's column appears twice weekly. On Saturdays, his column focuses on the area during the Depression and before. His Monday columns address local history after the Depression. If you have feedback or ideas about the column, write to him at The Daily Star, or e-mail him at His website is His columns can be found at

Trending Video

Recommended for you