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Dallas Wyatt tried to support his wife and five children with his minimum-wage job, but when his money ran out Neediest Cases helped fill a need.
"Rent, light bill, water bill off a minimum-wage job. It just wasn't working," Wyatt said.
The family, including three boys and two girls ages 2 months to 7 years, is among hundreds who have received help from the Neediest Cases fund this year.
The fund, established with donations from Chattanooga Times Free Press readers, generated $47,000 to help 300 families during the 2014 season. Grants from the fund, as small as $50 or as large as $530, are enough to keep some people from homelessness or having no utilities.
Neediest Cases funds meet needs for people when some government-funded grants are more restrictive, said Diane Jarvis, Neediest Cases manager at the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.
In the past year Jarvis has used the Neediest Cases fund to help at least three women leave town to escape abusive relationships. She helped a longtime homeless veteran get utilities so he could move into permanent housing, and helped an elderly woman get her utilities restored.
"It may not be a huge amount of money, but for some people, a small amount makes a huge difference," she said.
Since the United Way began administering the program in 2013, Neediest Cases has expanded outside Hamilton County to serve people in eight surrounding counties, she said.
Community Kitchen caseworker Kathy Long recommended the Wyatt family for Neediest Cases. They received $104.51 to pay a sewer bill.
Long also assisted the family through the Family Housing and Learning Center program before they got a housing voucher to help pay rent on their three-bedroom home.
This was the first year the Wyatts have received financial assistance for rent and utilities in the four years that they've been married. Until now, both Wyatt and his wife, Shelly, worked full-time jobs to support their family.
But during Shelly's recent pregnancy her blood pressure hit dangerously high levels, while her iron level dropped too low, and she had to stop working.
Since their son's birth, Shelly Wyatt has landed a full-time cleaning job at Memorial Hospital. Her husband, who also works at the hospital, got a promotion to stock manager and his income increased above minimum wage.
Both parents plan to attend Chattanooga State Community College, with Dallas Wyatt to study electrical engineering and Shelly in the criminal justice program.
Dallas Wyatt said he was concerned about bills and his wife's health when she stopped working, but he also believed that everything would end well.
"We always put it in God's hands, and whatever happens we just go with it," he said. "Whatever he's got planned for us, it's got to be better."
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.