Our History

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Trident United Way was established as the Community Chest in 1944 in Charleston, S.C. The organization worked to raise funds through one general annual campaign and distribute to member agencies.

Previous iterations of the philanthropic organization in Charleston included the Social Services Exchange, established in 1922 to reduce duplication of services and competition for resources. The Social Services Exchange became a member of the short-lived Community Chest in 1925. 

Community Chests had increased in number across the United States, with about 1,000 in existence by 1948. The rise in popularity of war bonds paved the way for payroll deductions as a method for raising funds for philanthropic purposes. Community Chests eventually became United Ways and adopted this practice nationwide. 

Charleston's Community Chest underwent several name changes throughout the years, including Community Chest of Charleston County, Community Chest Red Cross, United Fund and United Community Services. When services were expanded in the 1970s to include Berkeley and Dorchester Counties, the organization was renamed Trident United Way.

Despite several name changes, the purpose of Trident United Way has always been clear: to be a constructive agent of change in fulfilling its mission of helping people. Today, Trident United Way focuses on three impact areas: education, financial stability and health. It uses a combination of program funding for other agencies in addition to serving as the backbone in collective impact initiatives that bring organizations from across the Tri-County together to solve problems that no one organization can solve alone. 

Sept. 29, 2019: Trident United Way leaders and longtime donors reflect on 75-year history in Charleston by Rickey Ciapha Dennis, Jr., The Post and Courier