For Rhea County, Tennessee, resident Charles Hancock Jr., the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund was a light during a difficult point in his life.

After a recent split from a partner, Hancock's electricity was turned off multiple times. At one point he spent more than two months in his home without power.

"I went without it for right at 65 days at the time," he said. "There was no way I could get almost $900 to get my power turned on."

Without power, his two daughters who stayed with him on the weekends had to go and live with other relatives, as costs for transportation and medication on top of his bills had become more than he could handle with his monthly Social Security check.

Hancock had never really heard of what United Way, which administers the Neediest Cases Fund, did before a friend referred him to the organization's office in Rhea County.

Through caseworker Angie Drake, United Way was able to help Hancock with the payments needed to catch up on his bill, and he has since been able to keep the lights turned on.

"She was real nice, a very, very helpful lady when it comes to getting me through the process and telling me how they can help and then what else did I need to do," Hancock said. "Actually they helped me more than what I thought they could."

The donation was made possible through the Neediest Cases Fund, started in 1914 by Adolph Ochs, previous publisher and owner of the New York Times and the Chattanooga Times. The fund now helps people with one-time donations to get them back on track.

Funded by donations from Times Free Press readers, the Neediest Cases Fund is managed by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga and distributed to people in need who are referred by partner agencies.

Recipients are required to be employed to receive help from the fund, which fulfills basic needs such as housing, utilities and food to those who need one-time help to become self-sufficient.

Last year, readers donated a total of $46,569.86 to the fund, a significant increase over the 2018 total of $41,827.70.

(Donate to the Neediest Cases Fund here)

Other Ways to Donate

Note: Under the CARES Act, taxpayers who don't itemize deductions may take a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to charitable organizations.

Send the following information and a check to United Way of Greater Chattanooga. Please note that the donation is for Neediest Cases and mail to United Way, 630 Market St., Chattanooga, TN 37402.
Enclosed is a donation for $
Donor Acknowledgement options:
In honor of:
In memory of:

All donations will be acknowledged by mail and in the newspaper. Please state if you do not want us to publish a name in the list of contributors. Donations will be accepted through Dec. 31.


Hancock said that without the assistance of the fund, he may have still been without power to this day, and for that he is beyond thankful.

"They were the only ones that I had spoken to at the time that even offered to help me out at all," he said. "If it wasn't for them, I would probably still be sitting here in the dark."

Contact Tierra Hayes at