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United Way celebrates 70th anniversary

Executive Director Denise Cumbee Long recounts the history of the United Way during a 70th anniversary celebration Wednesday at Trailside Brewing Co.

The United Way of Henderson County marked its 70th anniversary with around 175 people attending a celebration at Trailside Brewing Co. Wednesday.

Founded in September of 1953, United Way has partnered with individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations through the years to raise over $60 million to help improve education, health, financial stability and basic needs in Henderson County.
“In 1953, a group of Henderson County citizens had a new vision for meeting community needs. These men and women banded together to create the Henderson County United Fund,” United Way Executive Director Denise Cumbee Long said. “Seventy years later, we are still pursuing and expanding on this vision: bringing people and resources together and growing and evolving to meet the changing circumstances of our time.”

During the program, former board members, staff and volunteers were recognized, and some of them reflected on their experiences with United Way.

“United Way is a force multiplier for good," former board Chair John Bryant said. "It is a multiplier for giving, for advocacy, and for volunteerism. I’m so glad that I’ve been part of this organization to see what 70 years of awesome looks like.”

U.S. Air Force Col. Henry Johnson (ret.), who served as United Way’s executive director from 2000 to 2006, reflected on the past and some of the positive changes over the year.

“I am so pleased at how United Way is doing now and how they have improved their programs, vision and initiatives," he said. "I’ve been supporting United Way for 26 years now, and it always makes me feel good.”

Mark Warwick, a former UWHC board chair and owner of WTZQ radio, noted that he interviews many local nonprofit leaders each week on the Friday United Way moment. “It is remarkable”, said Warwick, “that when asked what their program would look like without United Way support, most of them say that the program would not exist or that it would be greatly diminished. This is why United Way is so important in our community.”

Three awards were announced during the evening for individuals receiving special recognition:

  • The Rob and Ginger Cranford Community Service Award, sponsored by Morrow Insurance Company, honored Jan Witte for exceptional community service. Witte was a former United Way board member and volunteer who died in December 2022.
  • The Edward C. Brisley, Jr. Award, sponsored by Ken Adams at Edward Jones, was presented to Barbara Platz, a volunteer at United Way of Henderson County for more than 20 years, including 12 years as a member of the board.
  • The Community Champion Award was presented to Hendersonville Mayor Barbara Volk for her longstanding civic engagement and support of the community.


United Way also announced campaign awards to companies that excelled in their support of the wider community through employee and corporate giving in 2022:

  • Premier Cornerstone Award to Wilsonart
  • Power of Partnership Award to Cummins-Meritor
  • Change Maker Award to Kimberly-Clark at Berkley Mills
  • Live United Award to Publix.

“For over 70 years, United Way has been our community’s choice for impactful giving,” Long said. “And we have only been able to succeed because of the generous support of many partners. This celebration is one way for us to say ‘Thank You!’"