We were treated to an excellent talk on giving communities this week by Scheels Store Leader Peter Phillipi.

Peter drew parallels between the stories of Scheels, United Way and Rotary as a way of encouraging a vision for a future that integrates the efforts of all three in community giving. Scheels was founded in Sabin, MN, in 1902, originally as a hardware store. United Way of Cascade County traces its origins to the 1920s when local businesspeople saw the advantage of combining charitable giving through a single organization - at that time, the "Community Chest." Rotary, of course, got its start when local businessmen saw the desirability of men from all walks of life working together to make the community and the world a better place.

All three organizations have evolved over the course of their histories. Scheels spread from Minnesota to the Dakotas and into Montana, primarily as a hardware store, but in the 1970s, Scheels bucked the odds and decided to focus on sporting goods. The operation has been highly successful. United Way evolved from the Community Chest to the Community Fund to the United Fund and finally to United Way. More importantly, it evolved from being a single point for collection and distribution of charitable donations to an assessment-based, results-driven organization making positive changes in Cascade County. As we all know, Rotary Club of Great Falls also evolved in both its membership and its points of focus over the course of the last century.

Through all those changes, each organization has focused on making the community a better place by reaching out to contribute to the health and well-being of youth, as well as families and individuals in need. Peter makes a good case for the strength that all three organizations could bring to the common goals we have. As the director of United Way of Cascade County's next fundraising campaign, he'll bring new energy and vision to this vital part of community giving!