HOW TO HELP
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When Amanda Dees began working at the Goodwill store in Dunlap, Tenn., many of her co-workers thought she was ignoring them when they called her.
Managers said they would call to her and she would not look up from hanging T-shirts on a metal clothing rack or from tidying up a shelf of DVDs.
Dees, who always has a huge grin and knows every customer at the Goodwill by name, wasn't ignoring them -- she would never turn down talking to someone -- she just couldn't hear them.
It wasn't until Dees, 29, received hearing aids through the Neediest Cases Fund four months ago that her co-workers realized how deaf she is because of a tumor she had as a teenager.
The Neediest Cases Fund is an assistance program coordinated through the United Way, begun 100 years ago in 1914 by The Chattanooga Times newspaper. Throughout the holiday season, the Times Free Press continues the tradition and collects donations from readers to help those in need.
"I couldn't afford another pair of hearing aids after a dog ate mine six years ago," Dees said.
Dees works full-time at Goodwill and is proud to be completely financially independent -- paying for her own trailer, which she loves to decorate -- but said a replacement pair of hearing aids had always cost too much.
Dees couldn't get the specially fitted hearing aids she needed through Goodwill's Health Equipment Link Program. So Kim Warren, director of community services at Goodwill, contacted the United Way and filled out a Neediest Cases application for her to get the devices through the Starkey Hear Now Program.
Warren attended every appointment as Dees was tested and fitted for the hearing aids over several months.
"Having hearing aids again is amazing," Dees said. "They make a huge difference."
Her coworkers agree.
Penny Bryant, a lead sales associate at Dunlap store, said being able to hear means Dees can be "very outspoken and very friendly to everyone."
Dees calls Assistant manager Robin Johnson a mentor.
"Everyone just loves Mandy [Dees' nickname at the store,]" Johnson said. "How can they not?"
In turn, Dees calls the people she works with at the store her family.
"They all want to adopt me," Dees said, laughing.
Dees usually drives the five minutes from her house to Goodwill on her day off -- not to work, but to socialize.
In the parking lot outside of Goodwill, Dees' smile grew wide as she said, "the best part of my hearing aids, is now I know when everyone in the store is talking about me."
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6592.