The United Way of the Coalfield is a local, non-profit, volunteer driven organization working to support health and human services in Hopkins and Muhlenberg Counties of Kentucky. It is governed by a local volunteer Board of Directors and supported by a small, professional staff.
Caring for people in this area of Kentucky since 1972, The United Way of the Coalfield is continuing its mission to “unite volunteer efforts to plan and monitor effective human service programs that are responsive to community needs and promote the quality of life in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties.
The History of the United Way in Hopkins and Muhlenberg Counties
Early in 1972, volunteers from several local human service agencies took the initiative to combine their fund-raising efforts into one concentrated annual campaign. Prior to that, each agency was compelled to spend a large block of valuable time generating the necessary funds to keep their agencies in operation. By working cooperatively, these agencies were able to spend more time on providing services than on fund raising.
That first year, this collaboration was called the Hopkins County United Fund and it successfully raised $80,000 for nine agencies. The original agencies were Red Cross, USO, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Salvation Army, Mental Health Center, Arthritis Foundation, Meals-on-Wheels and Madisonville Benevolent Society. Leadership for the United Fund was provided by President Berl Fowler, Secretary Lucille Cardwell, and Campaign Chairman Ernest Clayton. Other active members included O. M. Kington, Jr., Ann Brown, Tom Lovan, Bill Arthur, Tom Houck, Rev. Don Tabor, Cardwell Smith, Ed Nicoletta, Aubin Higgins, D. W. Dockery, O.T. Rudd, Tony Mills, Rod Tompkins, and many others.
During the next two years the United Fund became the United Way of Hopkins County. It became apparent nearly from its inception that the United Way was an operation that would be involved year-round with the business of collecting pledges, distributing allocations, conducting board and committee meetings and planning for future growth. The founders saw the need for a paid staff to carry out these necessary functions and hired a part-time campaign director and office secretary.
In 1974, United Way of Hopkins County became affiliated with the United Way of the Ohio Valley based in Owensboro, Kentucky. This relationship was renewed for several years and provided the fledgling organization with the impetus for growth. As part of the contract with UWOV in 1977, it included funds for their first full time administrative assistant, Diane Jesse. Then in 1981 when Curtis McCoy, Jr. was President of the United Way, they voted to become independent of the United Way of the Ohio Valley. By this time, agency membership had increased to thirteen, campaign results had topped $200,000, and Charlene Reliford had become the new Administrative Assistant.
During the 1980s, United Way of Hopkins County saw steady growth in all areas. Upon resignation of Charlene Reliford in the fall of 1986, Ann Oldham was hired as the Executive Director. Campaign results for the ensuing five year period were phenomenall growing 46% from 1986 to 1991. As donations increased, the organization broadened its scope by establishing Project Grants in 1988, making United Way funds available to qualified local private, non-profit agencies that needed funding for new or expanded programs. Additionally, an anonymous gift allowed the organization to establish a three-year, donor-directed Job Training Grant to assist adult students needing to further their education. By this time, United Way of Hopkins County had eighteen agency partners.
The United Way of Hopkins County was approached in 1990 by leaders from Princeton-Caldwell County area to help them establish a United Way. United Way of Hopkins County advised and trained these volunteers in every aspect of United Way work for the following three years. From 1996-1997, Muhlenberg County community leaders expressed similar interest, led by the administrator and the Chief Financial Officer of the Muhlenberg Community Hospital. Several companies located in Muhlenberg County conducted a United Way campaign and designations from employee groups within Hopkins County were increasing in support of agencies in Muhlenberg County as well.
In January 2008, with guidance from the Board of Directors, operations in Hopkins and Muhlenberg counties were consolidated to better serve the needs of both areas, and United Way of Hopkins County became United Way of the Coalfield.
In 2016, following the retirement of Executive Director Chip Tate, Sean Mooningham, a Muhlenberg County resident, was hired as Executive Director. Staying in this role a short time Sean moved on to another postion, Libby Spencer briefly was ED but left to take another position. Don Howerton became Executive Director in the spring of 2019. Dee Padgett was added as Office Manager in the fall of 2019.
United Way of the Coalfield, as of the summer of 2019, had twelve agencies, coordinated the Heidi Badgett Grants, FEMA for Hopkins and FEMA for Muhlenberg.