What is United Way?

“Lake Area United Way fights for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community.”

Lake Area United Way (LAUW) brings together resources to enhance education, increase financial stability, and promote health and well-being for everyone in Muskogee and Cherokee Counties. LAUW works for the common good by identifying problems plaguing our community and working collaboratively to solve them. For example, we all win when a child succeeds in school, when a neighborhood turns around, when families have good health and workers have solid jobs. These are benefits that will ripple out to the community as a whole, ensuring we will continue to progress and our children will have a better future. It takes the whole community working together to reach our mutual goals.


United Charities of Muskogee was organized in 1915 and adopted organizational by-laws in 1928.  The first combined fund-raising effort was conducted in 1932 to provide support for area agency operations during 1933. This joint effort was known as the Muskogee Community Fund.

Community leaders of Muskogee encouraged the “Once-A-Year Fund-Raising Campaign”.  Eight local agencies previously conducted independent campaigns resulting in nearly year-round community soliciting. In 1932, the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Salvation Army, School Lunch Program, United Charities, YMCA and YWCA held one campaign in November with a goal of $68,436. The campaign was organized and directed by the American City Bureau, a national fund-raising organization.  Robert C. Coffy was elected the first community fund president. Offices for the fund were established at Muskogee, OK City Hall in a room provided by the City. Mrs. Don Bankston was employed as a temporary secretary, plus a man was employed as a collector for part of the year.

The State of Oklahoma issued a Certificate of Incorporation to the not-for-profit organization on May 20, 1939, as the Muskogee Community Chest.  The name was officially changed to United Way of Muskogee, Inc. in 1979.  The name of the organization was changed to Lake Area United Way, Inc. to accommodate an expansion in the zip code territory in 2000.

Lake Area United Way, Inc. (LAUW) currently solicits funding on behalf of fourteen non-profit organizations.  Each one of these organizations plays an important role in fulfilling Lake Area United Way’s goal of improving education, financial stability and health and well-being for the citizens within our jurisdiction.  They include American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Club of Tahlequah, OK, Inc., Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma, Hope House of Cherokee County, Kids’ Space, Legal Aid Services in Muskogee and Tahlequah, Muskogee County Council of Youth Services (MCCOYS),  Circle of Care - PAL program, Kelly B. Todd Cerebral Palsy & Neuro-Muscular Foundation, Inc., Volunteers of America – Retired Seniors Volunteer Program (RSVP), Women In Safe Home (WISH), CASA of Cherokee Country, and CASA for Children (Muskogee-Wagoner-Sequoyah counties) along with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library which is managed by LAUW.

While Lake Area United Way is a non-profit organization recognized by United Way Worldwide, it is governed by a local board of directors who have consistently, throughout history, made decisions to ensure that the organization was having an immediate impact right here in our community based solely on our community’s needs.