During the Depression years of the 1930's, area businesses did what they could to help struggling families. In the depression year of 1931, when unemployment and relief needs became critical in Mankato, a group of representative citizens including the Chamber of Commerce organized the Mankato Community Chest. Their objective was to care for emergency and unemployment needs and to avoid duplication. A similar fund was established in St. Peter and received support from businesses there, too.

A fund of $6,000 was shared by four agencies, the general welfare receiving the largest share at that time. The Boy Scouts, Camp Fire Girls, Salvation Army and Red Cross also shared. In succeeding years, scope of the Community Chest widened and covered eight organizations: Boy Scouts, YMCA, YWCA, Salvation Army, Camp Fire Girls, Alpine Attic, Welfare and milk fund and U.S.O.

The Community Chest Fund was incorporated 25 years later on April 18, 1956 and became United Fund. And in 1974, the United Fund was changed to the United Way. This change was made for the local effort to capitalize upon the national advertising of the United Way campaign. The change to the United Way campaign was in line with a community by community change to coordinate campaign drives and make the public aware of the organization.