For almost 100 years now, this newspaper's Neediest Cases Fund has been a vital connection between those in Chattanooga and the surrounding area who are in need of help, and those whose good fortunes allow them to provide assistance and aid to others. Over the decades, the fund has become a Chattanooga institution that generations of families and an ever-growing number of individuals and businesses has embraced. That tradition surely will continue during this holiday season.
In the days between now and Christmas, the Chattanooga Times Free Press will invite its readers and others in the region to contribute to the Neediest Cases Fund, a campaign begun not too long after the turn of the last century by Adolph S. Ochs, then publisher of The Chattanooga Times. Every gift received is turned over to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults of Chattanooga, the unsung agency that administers the fund through the year.
A heart-felt ritual
This year, as has always been the case, every gift -- small or large, from individuals, businesses or classrooms, with a memorial or dedication or without, from civic, social and fraternal groups and many other organizations -- will be acknowledged with gratitude in the pages of the newspaper.
Reading those dedications -- many contain names and phrases that have grown familiar over time -- is a a ritual of the year-end holidays for many of this newspaper's readers. The length of the list of acknowledgments each year is confirmation of the giving spirit and generous heart of Chattanooga and the tristate area.
All the gifts are welcome; they support the vital work undertaken by the Partnership.
The agency currently operates 20 programs at seven sites in Hamilton County, at sites in Bradley and Marion Counties, and at several locations in Northwest Georgia and Northeast Alabama.
The breadth of service and the variety of programs in such a wide area affirms the Partnership's value to the community, and to the lives of those it assists during the course of the year.
The Partnership offers a variety of services to individuals and families. For the most part, those programs are underwritten by the United Way and public and private grants.
Sometimes, though, those funds, reasonably, are targeted, and come with restrictions about how they can be used.
The Neediest Cases Fund complements those earmarked funds. The gifts are deposited in a separate, discretionary account that allows caseworkers to help those whose needs are carefully vetted and documented, but nevertheless fail to meet the restrictions of the established programs. Quite often, the Neediest Cases Fund allows caseworkers to provide assistance to clients rather than to tell them that they'll have to manage on their own during is a crisis.
Critical aid in crises
Funds from the Neediest Cases, for example, can help a father who is out of work buy food for his family, or help a single mother pay an unexpected bill. Or they can be used to help someone cope with a medical crisis when the customary criteria for eligibility are not met.
Generous gifts to the Neediest Cases Fund make it possible, in some instances, for caseworkers to help women and children leave abusive home situations without fear of going without food and shelter. The funds can provide aid that allows some elderly individuals and couples to continue to live independently rather than face institutionalization. The fund, in a very real way, allows the Partnership to meet needs that in many circumstances otherwise would go unfulfilled.
Readers have been extraordinarily generous over the years in support of the annual Neediest Cases campaign. Given the city's and region's tradition of helping the less fortunate, there's little reason to expect that such assistance will be withdrawn during this year's seasonal celebrations.
Sharing with less fortunate
Indeed, many area residents rightfully take time, in the midst of festivities, to count their good fortune. Then they remember that not everyone in our midst has a loving family, a job, a safe and warm place to live and the advantage of good health. That reflection always has prompted those with a giving nature to share their bounty through the Neediest Cases Fund.
Donations to the Neediest Cases Fund can be mailed to The Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or brought to the newspaper's office at 400 E. 11th St. through the end of the year.
Donations also can be made online at timesfreepress.com/ neediestcases.
The Partnership, like the agencies that preceded it, has a solid record of using funds wisely. Gifts to the Neediest Cases Fund, in keeping with tidings of the season, are powerful proof of the region's desire to assist those facing hardship in what should be a joyous time of year -- and beyond. The holidays will be happier and the lives of many residents here significantly improved because of the generosity of their fellow residents.