Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Rhea County United Way Executive Director Christine Ralph, shown in the Dayton office, helped facilitate aid from the Chattanooga Times Free Press's Neediest Cases campaign.

When Dayton, Tennessee, residents come to United Way of Rhea County for help, it's often a last resort, case manager Christine Ralph said.

Without the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund, she said she would have to turn some people away knowing they have nowhere else to go.

"We don't have the resources they have in bigger cities," she said of Rhea County, adding that the Southeast Tennessee Human Resources Agency is the only other agency in the area that provides assistance to people in poverty. "I'm so appreciative to have Neediest Cases as an option because it allows me to help people we couldn't otherwise help."

Earlier this year a woman was referred to United Way of Rhea County, and Ralph was able to assist her using the Neediest Cases fund.

The woman lost her job at a Dayton hosiery factory after suffering a heart attack in 2018. She kept her apartment by selling personal items and borrowing money from her daughter and other friends and family, but otherwise would have become homeless.

She had just been approved for social security benefits when she was referred to United Way, but her first check wasn't due to arrive for another month. She was behind on her utility bills and asked United Way for help paying a portion of them to avoid being disconnected.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Rhea County United Way Executive Director Christine Ralph, shown in the Dayton office, helped facilitate aid from the Chattanooga Times Free Press's Neediest Cases campaign.

"She took care of things for a while before she reached out for help," said Ralph, who was able to cover the entire cost of the bills with funds from Neediest Cases, even though the woman only requested a portion.

That allowed her to use money from her first benefit check to cover attorney fees and help pay off medical bills from her heart attack.

"It was like everything hit her all at once," Ralph said of the woman, who asked that her name not be used because she is embarrassed that she had to ask for help.

Started in 1913 by Chattanooga Times publisher Adolph Ochs, the Neediest Cases Fund provides help to people who need one-time assistance to become self-sufficient when unforeseen circumstances leave them unable to pay their bills.

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.

(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:
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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.

Last year hundreds of readers made donations to the fund ranging from $12-$5,000, raising a total of $46,569.86.

This year's Neediest Cases campaign runs through the end of December, and United Way officials predict the fund will be used more than ever in 2021 — particularly by people who have been relying on COVID-19-related assistance that will no longer be available.

"More people now are getting back to work, but they're still behind," said Carmen Hutson, director of stability and community programming for United Way of Greater Chattanooga and manager of the Neediest Cases Fund. "We need to cast them up so they won't be a statistic."

To donate to the Neediest Cases Fund and read about other 2020 fund recipients, visit

Contact Emily Crisman at or 423-757-6508.