The Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund enters its 100th year helping those in need with donations from readers who generously give to unique resource available year round. Contributions, which are acknowledged in the newspaper, will be accepted through Dec. 31.
United Way of Greater Chattanooga will work with partner agencies in the area to help people with emergency needs as well as provide services, if possible, to help them become more self-sufficient and stable. Call 423-752-0353 if you or someone you know could benefit from the Neediest Cases Fund.
A year ago, Monyette Ervin faced a questionable future. After supporting herself for more than 30 years, debilitating back pain left the former nursing home employee unable to work and in danger of losing her home.
Efforts by Chattanooga's community of social service agencies, churches and individual donors, however, stopped foreclosure from happening.
Ervin, now 59, praises God for the fortunate turn of events that has allowed her keep the family home, but also acknowledges the generosity of strangers that helped her stabilize her financial footing.
The Times Free Press featured the precariousness of Ervin's situation last year as part of a series of stories highlighting how contributions to the newspaper's Neediest Cases Fund are used to help people who have nowhere else to turn. Every year between Thanksgiving and New Year's, the Times Free Press asks readers to donate to the Neediest Cases Fund. Hundreds of donors contribute thousands of dollars, in amounts as small as $5 and as large as $1,000 or more, to the fund. The money is used for emergency needs such as paying a month's utility bills to underwriting a GED prep class.
Ervin's father, James, built a home in the early 1950s on land he owned for about a half a century. Three decades later the house needed so many repairs that Monyette Ervin and her father agreed to tear it down and build another one so she would always have a place to live. Her father died less than 10 years later at age 91.
In 2005 Ervin took out a $26,000 loan for home improvements on the second house.
A surgery to relieve back pain left her unable to work; her initial disability application was denied. She struggled with house payments. Yet she had faith that she would keep a promise to her father to keep the home. That faith motivated her to ask for help.
"Nobody but God," she said through tears while sitting in her living room on Friday.
She recalled how her kitchen table was stacked with paperwork informing her about resources and places that may help her: the Chattanooga Human Services Department, the Samaritan Center, and the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.
Ervin, working through the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, was able to receive a month's mortgage payment from the fund.
Her story, of her faith and her determination to keep the home her father built, motivated others in the community to step up as well, a common reaction to Neediest Cases stories, according to Sandra Hollett, the chief executive of the Partnership.
Ervin found money in her mailbox and got contributions from organizations to pay her mortgage for three months. The Partnership's Consumer Credit Counseling Services provided her with counseling on how to manage the income she had. And in late December, she learned she had been approved for disability.
Without the pressure of constant worry about how she will pay her mortgage, Ervin has been able to take better care of her health. She has lost weight and is in less pain. She is still under a doctor's care and unable to work, but she can care for herself and says she is thankful for the support she has received.
She encourages others to not be afraid to ask for help.
"I hope this helps someone else," she said. "Because it helped me."
Contact staff Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfree press.com or call 757-6431.