When two Rhea County manufacturing plants set in motion plans to close up shop, leaving multiple Fuji Film and Goodman Manufacturing workers unemployed and unable to sustain their families, the Neediest Cases fund stepped up.
Dozens of the laid off workers received help paying their utility bills and rent.
The fund also provided funding so a local father could get branded seizure medication for two of his children who suffer with epilepsy.
"Neediest cases makes a difference in the lives of people," said Mickey McCamish, executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee.
The retired U.S. Navy captain stands among hundreds of Neediest Cases contributors and case workers who make the fund possible.
"Without Neediest Cases, you would have a void in the community, more people going without," said McCamish, whose family has contributed to the fund since at least 2008.
So far this year, the charity has provided 170 families with more than $68,000 in assistance toward supplying their basic needs.
"I just want to assure readers that the money is being used to make a real difference in the lives of people," said McCamish, who said he talks with his clients personally to make sure money from the fund is spent as it is intended.
Readers may donate to the Neediest Cases Fund every weekend in December at The Holiday Market, hosted indoors at the Chattanooga Convention Center. Donations can also be made by mail.
Chattanooga Times Publisher Adolph Ochs started the fund in 1914 to assist people in need. Since then, newspapers around the country have adopted the practice of running stories about local people in need and furnishing opportunity for those people to get help through the generosity of readers who contribute to the fund.
The United Way of Greater Chattanooga partners with the Chattanooga Times Free Press to operate the fund and screen recipients.
Donations to the Neediest Cases Fund will be accepted every weekend in December at The Holiday Market, hosted indoors at the Chattanooga Convention Center.
Partnership for Families, Children and Adults case worker Treva Sands said the fund helped restore the self esteem of a domestic violence survivor who had her teeth knocked out.
The woman was convinced she couldn't get a job as a waitress because of the way her mouth looked with her missing teeth. Neediest cases provided her funding for new teeth.
"I have seen Neediest Cases help people be pulled out of despair from not knowing what to do," said Sands, a housing coordinator at the partnership.
About 40 of the 170 families, nearly 25 percent of those receiving help this year, came out of Rhea County.
Fuji Film in Dayton is set to close March 31, leaving some 80 employees without a job. More than 600 people lost jobs when Goodman Manufacturing closed its doors this year just before the holiday season.
Unemployment payments are running behind for workers, so they are struggling, said Christine Ralph, Rhea County United Way executive director.
"We're using that Neediest Cases [money] to pay their utilities this month so they can make ends meet and maybe feed their families," she said.
Next to the Southeast Tennessee Human Resource Agency, Neediest Cases is the biggest provider of funding for people in need in Rhea County, she said.
Without Neediest Cases, Ralph said she would have to send people in Rhea County to the Chattanooga Community Kitchen for help.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.