Fifty years ago, if you did not donate to the Community Chest, a neighbor would come knocking at your door. For 10 days during October citizens fanned out across town in search of funds to service those in need. It took such a spirited sense of community to create the Concord Community Chest in 1947.
Winthrop Lee, one of the four founding members, recalls it was Morgan Smith who had the idea to break away from the regional Red Feather Campaign, the predecessor to the United Way. Red Feather balked at Concord’s forming its own group, but the local leaders could not be dissuaded. Past Board president Mary Johnson, whose husband was a founder, said accountability was a key reason for the change. ‘When you gave locally you knew where your money was going,’ she says.
Once Concord was on its own, the fund- raising campaign generated a groundswell of grassroots enthusiasm. With military-like precision canvassers were organized into neighborhood teams. Boy Scouts tacked up posters featuring the now familiar Community Chest Minute Man on utility poles all around town.
The early campaigns were buoyed by the local newspapers. In 1948 The Concord Journal banner was turned into the group of people pulling the plowing Minute Man toward the fund-raising goal. A column, ‘Chest Chatter’ announced events and happenings and each agency published its own description of it services in the K.Y.C.C. – Know Your Community Chest.
Over the years needs have changes and agencies have come and gone. Carlisle joined with the Concord Community Chest in 1968, just about the same time that the regional high school was graduating its first class.
The design of the campaign brochures themselves has gone from the sedate 1950s, through the flashy ’70s (a bright green flyer with a line drawing doubled as a kitchen wall decoration), to the more graphically sophisticated ’90s. Through it all the Community Chest has maintained it s primary mission as neighbors helping neighbors.
In recent years the Chest has become a catalyst for community problem-solving. One example is the promotion of teen activities and parent education following a community-wide assessment that identified unmet needs in these areas.
Mary Johnson, reflecting on five decades of service says, “At the beginning the Chest was real homespun. It’s come a long way, but there remains a vital community connection. It’s proactive, dynamic, it is right out there all the time.”
The story behind the evolution of the symbol of the 1947 Campaign of the Concord Community Chest is one of particular interest to Concord as it has uncovered much of the tradition and association of ideas which Concord identifies with the Minute Man.
When the 1947 Campaign was first being discussed, it was strongly felt that there should be an identifying symbol, peculiar to Concord, which would bring home to its citizen’s that this was their Community Chest and theirs alone. Because, for many years, their only experiences with the Community Chest s had been as part of an outside organization of which Concord was only a small segment. Now, however, they were to have one of their own over which they would have complete control and which would work for the sole benefit of Concord and those other interests in whom they wished to take part.
Naturally, the symbol which first came to mind was that of the Minute Man. But, it was felt, the conventional view had been used so extensively with everything from post-cards to Victory Loan drives that its particular significance would no longer solely apply to Concord. As a result, photographs were made of the Minute man from every imaginable angle, trying, thereby, to obtain a view which might be applicable to Concord alone. But, try as we might, the Minute Man was still the Minute Man of nation-wide acceptance.
The problem of a symbol was then turned over to Mason Ham, vice president of an advertising agency, and to Russell Hunt, another advertising man who has so successfully helped Emerson Hospital in its building drive. Mr. Ham came forward with an excellent symbol embodying the old military hat which was worn by the Minute Men of the time with a Red Feather stuck in the crown. This seemed, at the time, the logical symbol to use until it was discovered that the Red Feather was now copyrighted by the national organization of Community Chests and could be used only by its members. As Concord Community Chest, this year, did not feel it wished to join the national organization, it was necessary to file this symbol away for possible future use.
Russell Hunt presented an excellent sketch of a side view of the head of the Minute Man. This was considered seriously by the Campaign Committee.