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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Curtis Nichols poses at his home on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Curtis Nichols sits on the couch in his Chattanooga area living room, surrounded by pictures on the wall, knickknacks on his coffee table, and potted plants in the corners. A few months ago, he had nothing and had to start over, and the Neediest Cases Fund helped him get back on his feet.

Nichols lost his home to a grease fire in March and was living with family and friends for two months. Since then he has found housing, but he needed help with his deposit and first month's rent because he lives off of his Social Security check.

Nichols' counselor at the time set him up with Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga, where he met Kathleen Wright, the day and overnight shelters case manager. She helped determine Nichols would benefit from the Neediest Cases Fund.

The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program helps Nichols each month with his rent, and a one-time donation of $505 from the Neediest Cases Fund help Nichols pay the rental deposit and first month's rent for his new home.

some text Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Curtis Nichols poses at his home on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019 in Chattanooga, Tenn.

Adolph Ochs, founder of the New York Times and the Chattanooga Times, began the Neediest Cases Fund in 1914, and now it helps people with one-time donations to get them back on track. The United Way of Greater Chattanooga manages the fund.

"I got burnt out and lost everything — but God has blessed me and he keeps blessing me. I can't complain," he said.

Nichols noted that case manager "Miss Kathleen" is a very nice person who helps in any way that she can.

"United Way is a great agency, and Neediest Cases is a great way to help people," Wright said. "We have all been in situations where we have had setbacks. I think it is a great honor to help those in need. There are so many people out there who are in additional need of help, and I do everything I can."

Nichols said Wright stayed in touch with him and helped him get items when he was starting over.

"She stepped in and helped. When I told her I got the house, but I didn't have anything, she gave me rakes, some soaps. She gave me things that I didn't know that I needed. She is a special person, and she is very caring," Nichols said.

"I have done what I was placed in this position to do," Wright said. "I really try to go above and beyond."

Nichols said that, because of kind people such as Wright and the Neediest Cases Fund, he doesn't worry like he used to about what tomorrow will bring.

"I have a roof over my head and food in the refrigerator. I live by myself, and it isn't much but I can pay the bills. I don't have any money for enjoyment, but just having a place to call your own is enjoyment," Nichols said.

Donations to the Neediest Cases Fund are being accepted through December and can be made online at timesfreepress.com/neediestcases.

Contact Rebecca Hazen at news@timesfreepress.com.

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