The best thing the Aim Center has done for Patricia Gilley is not the $500 provided through the United Way agency to keep her homeowner insurance policy current. It was the art classes Gilley began at the center on M.L. King Boulevard in fall 2017.
"I had never picked up a paintbrush in my life before last November," said Gilley, who has been fighting to keep her home at the foot of Elder Mountain every month for the past two decades, "but I have sold a few of them [paintings] and will get my insurance paid through March. Keeping my home is all that matters."
The Aim Center offers the Clubhouse model of psychosocial rehabilitation to help its members to develop relationships and create individualized plans for recovery while working side by side with other members and staff to accomplish the work of the Clubhouse. There are five options, and Gilley chose the Visual Communications Unit. The United Way agency met Gilley's need for $500 to keep her homeowner's policy from lapsing two months ago.
Chattanooga Times Publisher Adolph Ochs started the Neediest Cases Fund in 1914 to help local people in financial need with one-time donations intended to help people get back on their feet. The charity provides the opportunity for readers to support their neighbors through financial donations during the holiday season. The United Way of Greater Chattanooga manages the fund, screens recipients and issues money.
Gilley's father suffered from mental illness and she endured an abusive relationship before, she says, "getting up the courage to get away." She raised five children and one, who also suffers with mental issues, now lives with her. Her disability payments were converted to Social Security payments that now total about $12,000 annually, with about $350 left each month for all other bills. With no margin for error, several unexpected bills caused a crisis with her home insurance.
"I've done so much to try and keep the property up and keep the house," Gilley said. "I was so blessed to get the help. I know the Lord will take care of me if I lost the house, but I have lived here since 1969 and I don't want to go anywhere else."
It never occurred to Gilley that it would be her artwork that helped keep the home insured through the first quarter of 2019, but it was her artwork that has her ready to make the next payment.
"The United Way sent me a little more than I needed," Gilley said, "and I took the check and immediately put away $100 for the payment. There was a car dealership that offered $5 for filling out an application so I did that. I don't know if the car salesman felt sorry for me or not, but he bought a couple of my paintings. I am going to make that payment."
The upbeat Gilley turned 73 on Oct. 20 and is methodically planning to enjoy her senior years.
"I joined the singles class at my church but quickly realized they were going to do a lot of things I could never afford to do," she said. "It's crazy to sit in the room and listen to them talk about the football game or a trip they are going on when I am just thinking about going to Wal-Mart."
To donate to the Neediest Cases Fund online, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/form/hsLJtw.
Contributions through December will be acknowledged in every Sunday edition of the Times Free Press beginning Dec. 2.
Contact Davis Lundy at firstname.lastname@example.org.