United Way of Greater Chattanooga Chief Executive Officer Lesley Scearce believes the one-time donation nature of the Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund makes it worth consideration as citizens consider charitable donations at the end of each year.
"The Neediest Cases Fund is unique because of what it does for people at just the right time," said Scearce, who continually reminds of the increase in the number of "working poor" in the Chattanooga region.
Ebony Cole knows how true Scearce's words are. The 31-year-old, working mother of a 3-year-old and a 4-year-old was in the middle of an apartment lease on a home in Ooltewah in July when the property owners began a complete renovation of the complex. Cole was asked to move, which she wanted to do in order to provide better housing for her children.
"I was ready to move, ready to find a better place for my children," said Cole, "but it takes a lot of money to move. I had $2,000 and had everything covered except part of the first month's rent. I was looking for the last part."
Cole called Family Promise of Greater Chattanooga, a social services agency with a focus on housing. Within hours, she had the commitment of $475 she needed to finish the deposit, rent and expenses related to the move from Ooltewah to the Highway 58 area.
"I was really working hard to make the move," said Cole. "I reached out to Family Promise and they were there for me. I just needed the one boost to get us in and get some peace of mind for my children."
The one-time donation needed to "boost" Cole is an example of what Scearce emphasizes when she talks about the need to contribute to the Neediest Cases Fund. Cole dropped out of Hixson High School when she was 17 "for my own selfish reasons," she said. "I wanted to live by my own set of rules, not what my parents wanted, so I just dropped out."
"That's the beauty of the Neediest Cases Fund," said Mary Ellen Galloway, executive director of Family Promise. "The $475 made the difference. When people need housing assistance, they need it now. They can't wait. We pride ourselves on our ability to be as quick and speedy as possible so we can help people keep roofs over their heads."
Realizing the limitations of not having a high school diploma, Cole went back to school at Chattanooga State Community College and received her GED in 2011. She had several jobs in the medical assistance field but was looking for a better way to support her family since there was no income from their father. She decided to move into the insurance sales field and was licensed as an insurance broker in September. Working from home for a private company, Cole now sells health and accident insurance in three states.
"They were great for me," Cole said of Family Promise. "I gave them the information they needed, and the help came in hours. I will be forever grateful that my children have a place to call home."
The Neediest Cases Fund was started by Chattanooga Times Publisher Adolph Ochs in 1914 and is administered by the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. Contributions to the Neediest Cases Fund were $39,124 in 2017.
Contributions to the fund will continue through December, and you can donate using the coupon accompanying this story or online at timesfreepress.com/neediestcases. The fund had raised $14,080.98 as of last Sunday. In addition, at the website you can read about fund cases from this year and 2017.
Contact Davis Lundy at firstname.lastname@example.org.