Some things don't change. The Times Neediest Cases fund began a century ago here, in the Christmas season of 1912. And still today, through the kindness and caring of this community's residents, it continues to help people through especially tough times. So this year, as always, we ask for readers' donations to this special fund.
We do this because there are always many people who find themselves in emergencies and hard circumstances with no place to turn for help.
A large percentage of area residents live paycheck to paycheck. They squeeze modest incomes and make hard choices: between buying food or medicine for a spouse or child, paying the electric bill or buying gas, leaving a house or apartment cold to help a parent, or trying to make ends meet in the event of an medical emergency.
An unexpected lay-off or job furlough, a marital breakup, a broken transmission or an unexpected medical bill, can quickly wreck a frugal budget, and leave a family in desperate need for a few weeks, or months.
Traditional public agencies are generally unequipped to step in and help in such fiscal circumstances. Their rules don't give them the leeway. That's where the Neediest Case fund comes in.
Donations to this fund are tax-deductible, and always fill a specific need. Donations to the Neediest Cases Fund go to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults -- the same diligent, nonprofit agency that gets called by public social workers and public agencies when citizens in need come to them for help that falls beyond the limits of public rules. The Partnership's personnel meet with these people and determine how to help them handle individual emergencies, and use Neediest Cases donations in the most appropriate way.
The breadth and depth of such exigencies in fragile families with modest incomes and no chance for rainy-day savings is evidenced elsewhere by the steadily rising number of homeless families that end up taking their meals at the Community Kitchen on 11th Street, and sleeping in their cars. It is illustrated, as well, in the growing yet nearly invisible number of homeless children who attend public schools, and are too embarrassed to tell anyone but a trusted teacher.
In fact, a new housing study by the Regional Planning Agency strikingly documents the thousands of families in Chattanooga that exist on a family income of less than $15,000 a year, and a nearly equal number of families who live on less than $30,000 a year. In families with incomes at or barely above the poverty level, and among broken families and senior citizens on fixed incomes, there are always needs to be filled by The Neediest Cases Fund.
Donations made to the Neediest Cases Fund will be regularly listed in this paper, though donors may choose to remain anonymous. We welcome our readers' participation and gifts. They will be well used. And in this Christmas season, they will be especially timely.