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Community Chest History

The Community Chest of Port Washington is part of a long tradition of collaborative fundraising for social services. While for many people the words “Community Chest” may conjure the board game Monopoly, it was the game that took the term from the charitable community.

Community chests have a history dating back over a hundred years. They operate on the principle that it is more efficient to raise funds for private social services through concerted and intensive community-wide drives than through uncoordinated campaigns of individual agencies. Cooperative fundraising with the aim of distributing the funds for charitable purposes dates back to 1873 in England, and 1887 in the United States. The name “community chest” was coined in Rochester, New York, in 1913, and in 1927, a national association took the name Community Chests and Councils (later becoming the United Way).

During World War I, it become more common for social service agencies to collaborate on joint fundraising drives for purposes relating to the war effort, adopting the symbol of the red feather. The success of these drives resulted in the continuation of cooperative fundraising efforts after the war and their growth during the Depression. In 1939, there were 518 community chests in the U.S.: in urban areas with populations of 25,000 and over, they were the the most widely used method of private social service financing; of cities with populations of 100,000 or over, only five had no community chest.

The Port Washington Community Chest, founded in 1949, was chartered to consolidate fundraising activities for a handful of local agencies, including the Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts and the Village Welfare Society. Within a few days, three new charitable and service organizations were added to the roster: St. Francis Cardia Sanatorium, Community Santa Claus and the Police Athletic League (PAL). In October of 1949, the initial fundraising goal was set at $39,870.