In 1887, a Denver priest, two ministers, and a rabbi recognized the need for cooperative action to address their city’s welfare problems. The Rev. Myron W. Reed, Msgr. William J.O’Ryan, Dean H. Martyn Hart, and Rabbi William S. Friedman put their heads together to plan the first united campaign for ten health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to serve as an agent to collect funds for local charities, as well as to coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants in cases which could not be referred. That year, Denver raised $21,700 and created a movement that would spread throughout the country to become the United Way. Almost 130 years later, United Way is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives.

United Way of Blair County

Improving lives by uniting people to care for one another.

United Way of Blair County was incorporated on December 17, 1934 as the Altoona Community Chest. Many surrounding communities had their own Community Chest organizations, which gradually became part of the United Way of Blair County at various dates, with the last incorporation of the Tyrone Community Chest in 1972.

United Way of Blair County is an independent 501 (C) (3) organization that is a member agency of United Way Worldwide. Membership dues are 1% of funds raised. As a member agency, United Way of Blair County receives the right to use the United Way brand, access to nearly 120 corporations that are a part of the Global Corporate Leadership organization, resources and toolkits, advocacy, national advertising, the NFL partnership, and professional development funding. Control of United Way of Blair County rests with the local volunteers that serve on the Board of Directors. In 2005, United Way of Blair County transitioned from a traditional “member agency” United Way, where funds were allocated to member agencies, to an Impact-driven United Way, where any 501 ( C) (3) organization that impacts a locally identified need is eligible to apply for funding through a competitive grant process.

United Way of Blair County is now focused on making lasting changes in Blair County by providing community members with the building blocks for a good life—education, health, financial stability, and a safety net for those experiencing emergencies.

Vision Statements 

  • Education: “We envision a Blair County where children and youth achieve their potential."
  • Health: "We envision a Blair County where young and old alike are physically and mentally healthy."
  • Income: "We envision a Blair County where individuals and families attain financial stability and independence.”
  • Meeting Emergency Needs: "We envision a Blair County where there is a safety net for those experiencing emergencies.”

United Way of Blair County strengthens our community by raising and granting funds to programs that address locally identified needs.

Improving Our Community

Other Ways that United Way of Blair County focuses on improving the community are by:

Volunteer Resources: Providing volunteer assistance through Day of Caring /Mini Days of Caring.

Financial Stability: Utilizing FamilyWize Prescription Assistance, which helps on average 250 people save $2,400 a month. Providing Volunteer Income Tax Assistance to help low-income tax payers file their returns and claim the benefits available. Collecting and distributing food to area food banks and pantries through the annual Canstruction effort sponsored by the Blair County Chamber of Commerce and the Blair/Bedford Builders Association. Collecting and distributing formal wear so that all high school seniors and juniors can attend their school prom.

Education/Nurturing Children: Family Resource Center (FRC) has been operating in Blair County since 1995 and has been operated by United Way of Blair County since March, 2008. The program brings $195,000 annually into the area to support family development. Family Centers are an early childhood, parent education, and family support program serving families throughout pregnancy until a child reaches the age of five years. FRC is funded by a three-year grant (2011-2014) of $194,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare - Office of Children Youth and Families and raises a 10% cash match locally. United Way of Blair County operates this grant program for the Blair County Human Services Office.

Family Resource Center is one of the few evidence-based Home Visitation Programs that serves at-risk families in Blair County. Its primary direct-service program is “Parents As Teachers” (PAT), an evidence-based, best-practice, in-home visitation program. Parent educators support the development of strong parent-child relationships by providing information to families about parenting skills, parent-child interactions, and child development. Parent educators model, consult, and coach on parenting practices and engage in parent-child activities designed to foster observation of the child’s behavior and parent-child interaction. Family Resource Center, offering PAT services through the Born to Learn® model,  provides regular child screenings that focus on developmental progress regarding cognitive, language, social-emotional, and motor skills, as well as identification of vision/hearing/health issues. As a consequence, children with possible developmental delays and vision/hearing/health issues are identified early and referred to further services when needed. Monthly group events offer children and parents educational and social events. 

Family Resource Center has served over 1,000 families in the PAT curriculum throughout Blair County since 1995. Research shows that PAT prevents child abuse and neglect and improves maternal and child health.  Certified Parent Educators provide families with information on early brain development and its relationship to their individual child's developmental stage. By understanding what to expect during each stage of development, parents can easily capture the teachable moments in everyday life to enhance their child’s language development, intellectual growth, social development, and motor skills. Family Resource Center provides information and referral to community services. The educator observes the families and continually informs parents of what is available to them in the community and assists with the integration of services. Parenting classes and support groups are held at the Family Resource Center and at housing projects: Fairview Hills, Evergreen Manor, and Logan Hills. CPR and First Aid classes are offered to families and the community.

A “Stuff the Bus” drive provides school supplies to children in need. The “Toasty Toddlers” project collects and distributes coats to children under the age of four. 

Health: Spearheaded an Urban Garden project to beautify and increase the safety and sustainability of neighborhoods by revitalizing abandoned lots while increasing the availability of nutritious food, teaching about growing food, and encouraging healthy eating habits. Two garden sites were established with community support and grants from Operation Our Town.FamilyWize Prescription Assistance on average helps 250 people save $2,400 a month.

Community Development: United Way of Blair County completed a county-wide comprehensive needs assessment in conjunction with the Blair County Human Services Office. A new Needs Assessment process is underway and is focused on assessing and improving conditions in Blair County.  It is being conducted by the Healthy Blair County Coalition, a broad-based community partnership that includes area hospitals, United Way of Blair County, County of Blair's Human Service Office, Penn State Altoona, and many other agencies and businesses. United Way of Blair County serves as the “home” and fiscal agent for the effort.

United Way of Blair County supported the Development of a  PA 2-1-1, Pennsylvania’s part of a nationwide web of call centers that help people access social services by dialing a consistent and easy-to-remember telephone number. Central Region PA 2-1-1 went live on September 18, 2012.  Not all regions in Pennsylvania are operational yet.