The question was a simple one: Could someone really have given annually to United Way for 75 years?
That's what George W. McKay of Fort Wayne wrote on his pledge card when he sent it in last year to United Way of Allen County.
It turns out he could have — and did.
United Way honored McKay and two other longtime donors — John W. Rogers and John Guingrich — during the Goldstine Leadership Reception at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Embassy Theatre, 121 W. Jefferson Blvd.
McKay's dedication to giving so inspired local United Way staff, they created a new Devotion Award and named it after him, said Rena Burden, local United Way donor relations manager. The award probably won't be given out every year, but will be reserved for those who have given for an unusual length of time.
McKay, now 96, started giving at age 21 after graduating from college and starting work at his family's grocery business, Bursley, he said. That company later merged with another area grocer to form Food Marketing Corp., which was purchased in 1965 by SuperValu of Minneapolis. McKay spent 15 years in Minneapolis, where he served as SuperValu's chief operating officer, but continued donating to the Minneapolis United Way, he said.
McKay moved back to Fort Wayne in 1979, and he and his late wife, Nancy, became leadership donors — $1,000 or more annually — to United Way of Allen County. He has maintained that level of giving since, even at an age and stage in life when most people would think he has done enough.
“The need is still out there,” he said.
Just as when he started donating 75 years ago, he still also believes the United Way model of bringing various social-service organizations under one umbrella for fundraising is a good way to address needs in the community.
Rogers, who received the top honor, the Bill Latz Award for Leadership, started giving to United Way in much the way McKay did: His family's grocery company already held an annual United Way donation campaign when he started there full time after college graduation, so he began donating.
He served on the United Way board of directors in the 1990s, and really deepened his connection after serving as chairman of Day of Caring, an annual United Way event that sends hundreds of volunteers into the community to do service projects.
Rogers, who now is president of The Rogers Co., since has served on the United Way board, including as chairman in 2003; on numerous United Way committees; and on efforts to increase leadership-level giving of $1,000 or more a year.
Guingrich also has been an active donor and volunteer, giving more than $1,000 annually and serving on United Way's 2-1-1 call center committee, with Day of Caring and as a speaker for United Way at workplace campaign meetings and other events.
Rogers said he enjoys helping at United Way because he meets people, makes new friends and learns new skills.
He also sees United Way as a keystone to the future success of the community. Through its fundraising and work with local nonprofit organizations, United Way can ensure services are provided to address needs and improve lives.
“Fort Wayne is as good a community as there is, but there is need out there,” he said.