Centennial Celebrating the 1950s




United Way of San Diego County is celebrating our Centennial by looking back over our 100 year history. Each month this year, we have considered a different decade and United Way’s role in it. To continue this trend, we are taking a look at the 1950s in April. You may be surprised by some of the parallels between life in the 1950s and our lives today.

In the United States, the 1950s were marked by concerns about polio – an infectious disease that was spread from one person to another. As numbers surged in the early 1950s, families grappled with anxiety and fear about what the future might hold. Fortunately, Jonas Salk (who spent the later part of his life in San Diego County) discovered one of the first successful polio vaccines. Years later, the Salk Institute for Biological Studies opened in La Jolla to give future scientists opportunities that he was deprived of earlier in his life. Because of his legacy, scientific research and vaccine development continues here in San Diego County.

Another key marker of the 1950s was the rise of consumerism. Increased media created a desire for more that left many families feeling strapped for cash. The first credit card was introduced in 1950 and the concept increased in prominence throughout the decade. This phenomenon created an increasing awareness of the need for financial literacy –  an issue that United Way of San Diego County has focused on over the years.

Building upon our history, United Way of San Diego County continues to promote financial literacy and family stability for San Diego residents. One way in which we advocate for financial literacy is by leading the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition which offers free tax preparation to individuals and families who qualify. Just last year, the Earned Income Tax Credit Coalition helped return $47,000,000 in federal and state refunds to San Diego County residents. We are proud to lead this important work to help families receive tax refunds and credits that they deserve.

Additionally, with the spread of the novel Coronavirus, many local families are struggling with anxiety about their health and financial situations, much like they did in the 1950s. Over the last few weeks, we have heard directly from thousands of low-wage workers who have been laid off or had their hours cut as businesses adjust during this crisis. In response, United Way of San Diego County created a Worker Assistance Fund that will pay utility bills, rent, and mortgage payments for low-wage earners who are struggling during this increasingly difficult time.

We are proud of our legacy of supporting financial literacy and family stability throughout the region. Will you join us?

To learn about the Centennial Celebration, visit uwsd.org/centennial.