Our History

Fox Valley United Way’s history began in 1922 with the founding of the Aurora Social Service Federation. The organization incorporated the United Way name and community tenets in 1972 and was renamed the United Way of the Aurora Area. The name was changed in 2004 to Fox Valley United Way following the merger with the United Funds of Yorkville and Plano. Today Fox Valley United Way represents 23 communities in Kane and Kendall Counties and supports over 50 social service agencies serving the families and individuals that reside within these communities.

In 2018, Fox Valley United Way made the decision to change from a multi-issue focus to a single-issue focus on early childhood. The impact of its early childhood collaboration, SPARK (Strong, Prepared And Ready for Kindergarten) has proven that the best way to help communities thrive is to ensure that children birth to five years old have equitable access to early childhood resources and education. For this reason, Fox Valley United Way is committing all of its resources to promoting positive early childhood outcomes and experiences.
Fox Valley United Way advances positive outcomes for young children through the following strategies:

  • Raising public awareness about the crucial importance of early learning
  • Grant Making to programs that support positive outcomes for
    children birth to age five
  • Supporting communities to convene local stakeholders to identify gaps in early childhood and to develop strategies to strengthen the communities that we serve.



News and notes through the years tell the United Way story

The Aurora Social Service Federation is formed, later becoming United Way of the Aurora Area.
The Federation launches a fund drive for Central Europe and the Russian Relief program.
Merchants Bank makes an interest-free loan to the Federation of $5,000.
The Salvation Army begins raising funds to buy a building on the south side of Main Street near Root Street. Members of the Aurora Social Service Federation (United Way) meet with the Salvation Army to discuss the handling of transients in Aurora.
The Federation becomes the Community Chest of Aurora. A committee is formed to study the cooperation and overlapping of agencies’ work.
The Community Chest of Aurora’s campaign goal is set at $115,100.
The Family Service Organization finds an increasing number of families being evicted from their homes due to non-payment of rent.
The Community Chest gives $75 to the Dental Clinic, an agency that was established and supported by Aurora dentists.
Excerpts from “A Study of the Problems and Resources in Aurora, Illinois to Determine the Need of Reorganizing a Family Service Organization” show some of the concerns faced by social service organizations of the time.
Case 1:
A woman, deserted, on relief, claimed she was unable to get along and wanted to place her four children.
Case 2:
A husband wanted to leave his wife and place the children because the economic stress of unemployment had weakened his morale and had made him unable to cope with his responsibilities.
A Refugee Committee is appointed to serve the United States Children’s Committee on Care of European Children. From “Regular Meeting of the Board of Directors of the Community Chest of Aurora,” on Oct. 24: “He (Mr. Savage) told the board that the United States Committee had notified us that the evacuation of British children would be discontinued for the duration of the winter…”
A War Chest Committee is established.
The annual meeting of the Community Chest is held at the YMCA auditorium and is attended by 225 members of the public to hear Mr. Louis J. Alber give “a fascinating talk on “The Irresistible Winston Churchhill”.”
A $2,000 grant-in-aid is made to the Community Council for the purpose of starting a “Mental Hygiene Clinic” in Aurora which would serve the needs of both veterans and civilians. The purpose of the clinic is to “give psychological and psychiatric services to returned veterans, children’s cases, and civilians.”
Dr. T.P. Stephens is honored as president of the Community Chest for seven years and his chairmanship of seven fundraising campaigns.
Campaign goal increases to $199,500. The executive director says the primary concern was the nine city-wide campaigns, each raising between $100,000 and $125,000, in addition to the Red Feather Community Chest campaign. His fear is that “the public is confused between strong moral impulses to meet human needs and the inability to be intelligently selective of the recipients of limited funds available as contributions.”
Community Chest hires a fundraising firm to assist in revamping campaign organization.
The Free Milk Fund is discontinued.
The Community Chest receives $5,400.52 from Charity Day–an event on opening day at the Aurora Downs racetrack. The February meeting minutes calls it “a highly promoted affair with movie stars, radio and TV stars, etc.”
The Campaign raises $411,000. The Community Chest of Aurora becomes known as United Fund.
An outstanding citizenship award is given to Mr. W.B. Greene, of Barber-Green manufacturing company, for his outstanding contributions to the community. Funding is provided for an alcoholism treatment program.
The scholarship committee awards a one-year $3,000 scholarship grant to a second year graduate student at the University of Illinois, Jane Addams Graduate School of Social Work. Upon completion of studies, the student is to work for two years in an Aurora Agency.
A study is conducted “to determine the need and demand of day care services for the entire community.” Part of the study is a profile of working mothers who indicated they would use day care services. The Marie Wilkinson Child Development and Community Center is established.
In conjunction with “Operation Lead Poisoning,” medical authorities release information stating that lead poisoning is a serious problem. The group agrees that a cooperative community effort is needed.
United Fund becomes known as United Way of the Aurora Area. Primary focus during this year is “to realize the full potential benefit of our new combined Budget-Planning Task Force, our new year-round Fund Raising Division, our intensified Public Information effort…”
Campaign goal is $1,032,684.
Congressman Tom Corcoran, in a letter to President Ronald Reagan, says, “The participation of the Right to Work Legal Defense Fund has Clearly deterred labor organizations form giving to United Way…”
The Donor Choice Program begins, allowing donors to designate which area of social service they would like their dollars to be spent. Also, Payments by Visa or MasterCard are allowed.
An area Needs Assessment is conducted.  Bi-annual updates will be conducted and published.  Every fifth year, a full, detailed Needs Assessment will be conducted and consist of a more detailed process.  This document will assist United Way in determining which issues are most important to the community at the time. Also, a Freedom Flight raffle is held for a plane ride on a B-17, in conjunction with the national Freedom Flight tour of historic warplanes, which stopped at Aurora Municipal Airport. Six people are able to ride on the historic plane.
A new allocation process is developed, which asks for a request for proposals in 10 service areas. The agencies submit the programs, and these are compared to the community needs assessment.
The Funders Consortium is formed,which allows the community to view the proposals and work collaboratively at addressing health and human service issues in the community.
United Way receives a grant from the City of Aurora to develop an outcome measurements program. Member agencies receive training on measuring outcomes which are beneficial to the agencies as well as the donors. Outcome measurements provide invaluable information to improve programs and track results.
The United Way campaign is enhanced by new computer technology, a web site and a regional marketing effort. United Way works constantly to ensure that community needs are met efficiently and effectively. United Way chairs the local FEMA Board, serves on the Continuum of Care Leadership Board, and launched the Charter for Illinois Children in the Aurora area.
United Way completes the second community-wide needs assessment. The Allocation Committee uses the assessment as a tool for making funding decisions, reviewing critical issues, and seeking programs that best fill those needs.
September 11th tragic events are different from any other we have experienced in our lives. In our sadness, and as our nation prepares for a war on terrorism, people everywhere come together to help in any way they could. Donors turn to United Way as a way of expressing their feelings for the victims in New York, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania. Americans show their generosity by giving more than $200 million to the September 11th Fund, and millions more to the American Red Cross National Disaster Fund. The United Way of the Aurora Area faces a challenging campaign with an aggressive goal of $1,554,000 and a declining economy. Aside from all the money donated to the September 11th Fund, the campaign surpasses the campaign goal raising $1,570,367 which is the largest amount ever raised during a campaign.
By collaborating with area funders and social service agencies, United Way is awarded an SBC Excelerator Grant in the amount of $37,500.  The grant allows United Way to enhance a donor’s ability to give and make a difference, provides an avenue for agencies to access state of the art technology and offers the needy a means to access services.  The grant enables United Way to generate, allocate, and manage resources which matches services with donors’ charitable choice.  This opportunity fosters standards of excellence in member agency management, stimulates community volunteer involvement, encourages collaboration among all service organizations, and provides leadership for a positive response to emerging community needs.  This is just one of the many ways United Way was able to leverage resources throughout the year to help build a strong healthy community.
1st Annual Cardboard Boat Race & Youth Initiative Grant takes place.
Name changes to Fox Valley United Way, merges with
Plano & Yorkville and raises $2.1M