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Last year, Karen Railey lost her job and her house, and she was afraid of what she and her daughter would face next.
Railey, 37, described her past as hard - full of troubles - some of which led to her becoming homeless. She feared the future, and thought she might never be able to provide a home for her teenage daughter.
Then Railey met Jessi Scarborough at Building Stable Lives, who helped her get a job; and the Neediest Cases Fund was able to help Railey transition into her own home by paying her first month's rent.
The Neediest Cases Fund, started by the Chattanooga Times in 1914, annually asks readers to donate money to help people in the area. The fund partners with the United Way to allocate the money raised to help specific families in need.
One of the programs the Neediest Cases Fund supports is Building Stable Lives, which was started in 2008 by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga and the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. Building Stable Lives is designed to provide holistic support services to people in need by focusing on long-term sufficiency.
The program uses a one-on-one approach, supplying each client with a life coach. Scarborough was assigned as Railey's life coach, and the two have worked toward accomplishing Railey's self-sufficiency goals.
At first they met at least once a week, and talked on the phone even more frequently, as Railey tried to find a job.
Together they improved Railey's resume, worked on her job skills and searched relentlessly for a job that would fit her skill set.
"She already has a lot of life skills, and I just tried to connect her with employment opportunities," Scarborough said.
Railey said she felt like she put in applications everywhere, and she grew discouraged when no one would hire her.
But Scarborough kept up her motivation, Railey kept searching, and she eventually heard that Southeastern Salvage on Lee Highway was hiring cashiers.
At first, Railey said she was too nervous to apply, but after a few days she built up the courage to fill out the application, and she received a phone call a few days later telling her she had the full-time job.
"This was one of my goals," Railey said. "But I still wanted my own house."
In June, that goal came true, as Railey and her daughter moved into an apartment in North Chattanooga.
Money from the Neediest Cases Fund paid for the apartment deposit and the first month of rent, but ever since Railey is proud to be paying for her home from her own paycheck.
"Having my own house is the most exciting thing ever," she said. "God blessed me with this apartment."
However, Railey said, "I still have more goals. I want to move up and get me a house with a big backyard."
Contact staff writer Kendi Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 423-757-6592.