About Us

The Brief History of

United Way and Your Local Chapter

The United Way was founded in Denver, Colorado, in 1887. Church leaders began the Charity Organization Society which coordinated services and fund raising for 22 agencies. The first fund raising efforts raised $21,700. Multiple Community Chest organizations joined the American Association for Community Organizations in 1918. The number of Community Chest organizations increased from 39 to 353 between 1919 and 1929, and surpassed 1,000 by 1948. By 1963, and after several name changes, the term United Way was adopted.

The Auburn and Cayuga Community Chest originated in 1922 to solicit and disburse monies for charitable and community purposes. It was succeeded by the United Fund of Cayuga County (1956), whose purpose was to continue the improvement and development of health, character, and well-being of the residents of this county. In 1979, the name was officially changed to United Way to promote identification with the National United Way movement. Today, there are over 1,800 United Way organizations reporting over $4.2 billion in contributions worldwide.

Our Mission

To improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of our community

The United Way of Cayuga County is committed to improving lives in our community by advancing the common good and addressing the underlying causes of problems. United Way is dedicated to community involvement and focused on creating long-lasting changes that will positively affect today, tomorrow and generations to come.

United Way conducts an annual campaign to raise dollars for agency partner programs through all sectors of the community.

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Board of Directors


Thomas E. Ganey

Kim Emperato

Mary Beth Leeson

Joanna Bilinski



Josh Alexander

Joanna Bilinski

Jacquilyn Dmytrenko

Kim Emperato

Stephanie Leone



Shelly Lowe

Amy Mahunik

Tracy Verrier

Jessica Wrench




United Way Team at 2022-23 Campaign Celebration, Aurora
United Way Staff at 2023-24 Campaign Celebration, Aurora 



Kathryn Dennis

Executive Director

Julisa J. Stone

Campaign & Marketing Manager

Sandy Sheridan

Office Administrator

Sydney Stull

Marketing & Campaign Assistant

Community Stewardship 

Through trained volunteers from the community, the United Way provides oversight and executes fiduciary responsibility on behalf of donors. These volunteers comprise the Fund Distribution/Agency Relations Committee which examines community needs and conducts reviews of partner agencies relative to their funding requests. This committee is also involved in helping partner agencies in bettering their management and programming through training, grantsmanship and technical assistance.

We recognize that in order to achieve our mission, we must continuously strive to be relevant and responsive to our community as a whole. As our community grows in its diversity, we must remain increasingly intentional about aligning our practices, policies, staffing and volunteers to reflect the changing communities we serve.

As such, the United Way of Cayuga County recognizes diversity to include all human characteristics that make us unique as individuals. It includes everyone and excludes no one. Race, gender, gender identity, geographic origin, culture, age, ability, sexual orientation, economic status, marital status and religion are just some of the characteristics that shape us as people. Inclusion is our strategy to leverage the diversity of our community.

We will continually strive to be a model of diversity and inclusion; committed to creating a supportive environment that enables all people, donors, staff, board members, volunteers, and community partners, to perform to their potential by fostering teamwork and maximizing contributions that highlight the unique skills and talents of all members of our community.