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Alison Gerber

For 99 years, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has raised money during the holidays to help the neediest in our community.

The tradition continues this year, but the money raised will benefit a wider number of nonprofit agencies and the people they help.

The money we collect during the Neediest Cases campaign has always gone to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. The campaign provides a hand up -- not a handout -- thanks to the Partnership's hard work. This year, though, the money will be distributed through the United Way of Greater Chattanooga in an effort to broaden the fund's reach.

Donations still will benefit the Partnership, which receives funding from the United Way, but also will help other agencies funded or supported by United Way. Those agencies cover programs that run the gamut -- from helping with disaster relief to providing educational opportunities for young children to finding housing for homeless people.

Despite the change, Neediest Cases money still will be available as a last-resort source for people whose needs cannot be met through traditional programs. The small, one-time assistance can help someone who's teetering to get on solid footing.

The money may help someone who needs an electric bill paid to get through a cold winter month. Or it may go to someone who must buy work shoes required for a job. Or it may get someone into an immediate shelter to escape an abusive spouse.

Over the years, the Partnership has helped thousands of Chattanooga-area residents through Neediest Cases and the agency's programs that assist victims of domestic violence, deaf people, the frail and vulnerable elderly and those who need financial counseling, as well as those needing stopgap help.

In the past year, the Neediest Cases fund allowed Partnership to help 477 people who had no other place to turn, said Sandra L. Hollett, the agency's chief executive officer.

"Each gift to the Neediest Cases Fund, large or small, makes a big difference for the person in our community who is hurting and needs immediate help," Hollett said.

The campaign kicked off Thanksgiving Day and runs through the end of the year. Every Wednesday and Sunday, the newspaper will chronicle the stories of those who already have been helped by the fund, as well as those aided by United Way programs that will get donations through Neediest Cases.

Eva Dillard, president/CEO of the United Way of Greater Chattanooga, said funding will not be limited to the 40 agencies that receive money from the organization but also will be given to other nonprofits that help with emergency needs throughout the greater Chattanooga area.

The Neediest Cases campaign began in New York City on Dec. 15, 1912. Two years later, Adolph Ochs, the publisher of The New York Times and the former publisher of the Chattanooga Times, brought the program to Chattanooga.

As we move into the campaign's 100th year, we'll continue to build on that tradition and the generosity of Times Free Press readers.

Alison Gerber is editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at For more on the Neediest Cases campaign or to donate, please visit