Traumatized Dayton, Tennessee, family gets help from Neediest Cases

Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Amy McRorie and Angie Drake of United Way stand outside the Rhea County United Way on Nov. 30. The two were involved with Olivia Keller's cases and the Neediest Cases Fund.
Staff photo by Olivia Ross / Amy McRorie and Angie Drake of United Way stand outside the Rhea County United Way on Nov. 30. The two were involved with Olivia Keller's cases and the Neediest Cases Fund.

In the span of 10 days, Olivia Keller experienced the best and worst of life.

The Dayton, Tennessee, resident said she gave birth to a son May 17. Ten days later, she came to believe her husband, Charles Keller, had sexually abused her daughter on multiple occasions since October 2020. He was later indicted on 22 charges and, according to Olivia Keller, is free on bail.

"I feel so sorry for my daughter," Olivia Keller said. "This has changed her life forever."

Charles Keller's lawyer denies the charges.

"Mr. Keller contends he is not guilty of the offenses alleged in the indictment," attorney Howard Upchurch said by email. "They are merely allegations and certainly not evidence of any wrongdoing on his part."

Aside from the mental and emotional trauma, there was a practical impact that couldn't be ignored -- with Olivia Keller away from work, per doctor's orders, after giving birth, her husband had been the family's sole breadwinner.

"I couldn't go back to work until the doctor released me," Olivia Keller said. "There was no way to make a house payment or anything like that."

(READ MORE: Dayton, Tennessee, caregiver and mother get relief from Neediest Cases Fund)

Keller said she approached the United Way of Rhea County with an eye toward getting partial help with a single house payment. Thanks to the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund, she got that -- and more.

"They ended up making the whole payment for that month," she said. "I'm just so thankful. "Amy (McRorie) and Angie (Drake, both of United Way) were both wonderful -- they got it done so quickly.

"I was a single mom of three with no income. I didn't know how we were going to make it. (The Neediest Cases money) gave me some relief to be able to pay other bills."

And Keller helped herself as well -- she said she finished the work necessary for a cosmetology license two weeks after giving birth. She said she got her license, started in July working part-time at a Great Clips salon in Soddy-Daisy and has put in for full-time hours.

"Mom always said I never had any 'quit' in me, and I don't think I do," she said. "I just keep going."

Keller's determination was no surprise for United Way's Drake.

"She's a go-getter," said Drake, solutions coordinator in United Way's Rhea County office. "She said she'd never asked for any assistance before, but you do what you have to do for your kids and your family."

(READ MORE: Neediest Cases fund helps Rhea County man through tough time following loss of his wife)

Keller said while she's received not so much as a pack of diapers from her in-laws, her own family has stepped up in a big way.

"My mom and dad have come over countless times to help with groceries, sitting, rides," she said. "And I have a huge church family, at the Family Worship Center, that's been amazing -- they've helped financially, with food and one of the girls from church babysits for free."

Keller said her family is still struggling -- she and her children have undergone family counseling in Dayton, she said, and her daughter is set to start trauma counseling soon.

"I know we'll never fully recover," she said, "but maybe 10 years from now, we'll be as past this as much as you can be."

Keller said her family has settled into a kind of new normal, aided by the passing of time and the fact that she's gone back to work.

"When people ask me how I manage, I say, 'prayers and Zoloft,'" she said. "I don't have all the answers, but I would say that if you need help, contact United Way sooner than later -- that's their goal, to help people at times like this."

(READ MORE: 'Neediest Cases' drive has benefited the Chattanooga area's hardest hit for more than a century)

The Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund was started in 1914 by Adolph Ochs, then the publisher of the Chattanooga Times. The Fund receives donations from Times Free Press readers. Money is administered and distributed to individuals and families in need by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga and partner agencies. Recipients must be working or on a fixed income and be able to demonstrate ongoing stability and self-sufficiency after receiving Neediest Cases funds.

According to United Way figures, the Neediest Cases Fund took in $81,000 last year and, in turn, helped 79 adults and 61 children in 54 households. Neediest Cases money went in 2020 to 60 adults and 40 children in 42 households.

Contact Bob Gary at

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