published Sunday, December 18th, 2011

Holiday fund donations and requests rise


by Andrew Pantazi
Sandra Hollett, executive director of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, organizes a large donation with Karen Murphy by placing stickers on the bags to determine to whom they will be given.
Sandra Hollett, executive director of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, organizes a large donation with Karen Murphy by placing stickers on the bags to determine to whom they will be given.
Photo by Jenna Walker.

NEEDIEST CASES FUND


Chattanooga’s Neediest Cases fund serves clients of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. The fund is administered by the Partnership to fulfill client needs that cannot be met through traditional funding sources. Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law. To donate, a coupon can be found on page xx. You also can donate online 24/7 at timesfreepress.com/neediestcases.

When the problems pile up, when the rent is overdue, when a family is doing everything it can to stay together, the Neediest Cases fund serves as a last resort.

The generosity of area residents who donate to the fund every holiday season enables the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults to extend help to those most in need.

Sandra Hollett, chief executive officer of the Partnership, said that Chattanooga, more than any other community she’s witnessed, has been dedicated to helping those struggling through a tough time. When she first joined the Partnership six years ago, she said Neediest Cases served about 150 people.

“In the past, we would have to turn people away,” Hollett said.

Even as the economy soured, the number of donors and the total donated to Neediest Cases grew, she noted.

In 2010, 534 people donated money. So far this year, the Partnership has helped 520 people.

“The increase in help definitely reflects increased giving, but also increased needs,” Hollett said.

For example, in the last year, the fund has paid for:

• A tank of gas for a man who needed to drive from Apison to Chattanooga to pick up food;

• A pair of eyeglasses for a man so he could read again;

• A monthly electric bill so a man with chronic lung and pancreas problems could keep his lights on during the last four weeks of his life.

Hollett said Partnership caseworkers now are seeing more clients who need help with rent and utility bills. Instead of seeking help when the first problem crops up, many people wait until there are too many problems to tackle at once.

“We recognize that here at the Partnership and we’re prepared to deal with that,” she said.

Decades-long legacy OF HELP

The Neediest Cases started in 1912 when Adolph Ochs, the former publisher of the Chattanooga Times and New York Times, printed stories about the 100 neediest cases in New York City.

Two years later, he extended the program to Chattanooga.

From the beginning, Chattanooga’s Neediest Cases has been managed by the Partnership.

The money doesn’t go to salaries or overhead, Partnership development manager Cassie Womack said.

“Every dollar donated to the Neediest Cases goes back to a client.”

Partnership staff use the Neediest Cases fund year round to help clients whose needs cannot be met through traditional sources. All donations, whether $5 or $100 or more, are important to the Chattanooga nonprofit agency’s ability to fulfill client needs, Partnership staff said.

Each year from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, the Times Free Press asks its readers to donate to Neediest Cases.

Raquel Hidalgo, who oversees the Partnership’s Building Stable Lives program, is among the staff who are a lifeline to residents in need.

Her first case, three and a half years ago, involved a disabled woman who was taking care of her grandchildren. Hidalgo helped her so she could pay her bills on time and raise her grandchildren.

Often circumstances far beyond an individual’s control bring that person to the Partnership for help.

Some clients need help because an accident leaves them unable to work and pay their bills. Still others suffered tremendous loss after the devastating tornadoes in late April. In these cases, the Neediest Cases fund is able to help people get back on their feet.

“We don’t want to be just a Band-Aid,” Hollett said. “We want to be a bridge to build upon to get better.”

about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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