Cooper: Neediest Cases fund needs you

Cooper: Neediest Cases fund needs you

December 11th, 2018 by Clint Cooper in Opinion Free Press

Holiday lights are installed several years ago on the top of the Central Block Building, which houses United Way of Greater Chattanooga, which administers the Chattanooga Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

Two weeks from today is Christmas Day. When we think of the generous spirits of people at Christmas, we think of nephew Fred's entreaty to his Uncle Scrooge in Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

"But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round ... ," he began to his miserly, sour relative in the 1843 novel, "as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."

Support Neediest Cases

To donate to the fund, visit, or send checks payable to United Way of Greater Chattanooga at United Way, 630 Market St., Chattanooga, Tenn., 37402.

Now, we'd like to think more people in this corner of the world don't have their hearts closed for the rest of the year, as Fred suggested they did in Dickens' England, and we'd also like to hope that in giving, people today aren't just considering "people below them" but simply people whose fortunes at the moment are not as bright as they could be.

Chattanoogans, as a lot, are a generous people throughout the year, be it in general charitable giving, in donations for public-private ventures, in contributions for those in the way of natural disasters, or in providing money for memorials and tributes.

But the season of Christmas in the Christian tradition, and in other holidays in other faith traditions, has long seen the custom of exchanging gifts, of remembering those who have less and simply of being generous. For others, minus the faith component, the end of the year brings the desire to offset their tax burden by making charitable contributions.

The Chattanooga Times Free Press and its predecessors, for more than a century, have offered mechanisms for area residents to help their neighbors at this time of year. In 1914, The New York Times and Chattanooga Times Publisher Adolph Ochs began the local Neediest Cases Fund to assist people in the community with one-time needs to help them get back on their feet.

In an era where economists say practically anyone who wants a job can have one, where job openings exceed the number of people looking for work and where government assistance is plentiful, it's hard to imagine people falling on hard times.

But it happens, it can happen quickly, it can happen unexpectedly and it can happen without a single mistake being made by the breadwinner in question.

A company closing. A medical emergency. A parent or child in crisis. A stolen identity. A broken-down car. A fire.

If a family lives on the edge — getting by but having no money to spare — any of the above occurrences could be disastrous. They could spell the difference in making a house payment, in choosing medicine over food, in choosing food over heat, in not being able to work, in not being able to get to work.

In many instances, though, a relatively small amount of money might make the difference in paying a heating bill, a month's rent or mortgage, car repairs, medicine or a water bill.

That's where the Neediest Cases Fund comes in. Throughout the year — not just during the holidays — the United Way of Greater Chattanooga draws from the fund to assist individuals and families in need. The assistance might help in some of the dire circumstances spelled out above, but in the past few years it also has helped pay for school fees, dentures, certification fees, transportation, hearing aids, and even a used washer and dryer.

According to organization records, the greatest need in recent years has been for assistance with rent or mortgage. Eight years ago, it was assistance with electric bills.

In recent years, generous Chattanoogans helped 241 families with $69,593 raised in 2016 and more than 300 families with more than $47,000 collected in 2014.

Funds for this year will be collected until the end of the month. The local United Way manages the fund, screens recipients and distributes the determined amounts. Names of readers who contribute are printed in the Sunday editions of the newspaper.

With two weeks until Christmas and three weeks until the end of the year, there is still time to be — to use nephew Fred's words — "kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant" people. Your contribution might be a lifeline between someone hanging on and someone being forced to let go.

Getting Started/Comments Policy

Getting started

  1. 1. If you frequently comment on news websites then you may already have a Disqus account. If so, click the "Login" button at the top right of the comment widget and choose whether you'd rather log in with Facebook, Twitter, Google, or a Disqus account.
  2. 2. If you've forgotten your password, Disqus will email you a link that will allow you to create a new one. Easy!
  3. 3. If you're not a member yet, Disqus will go ahead and register you. It's seamless and takes about 10 seconds.
  4. 4. To register, either go through the login process or just click in the box that says "join the discussion," type your comment, and either choose a social media platform to log you in or create a Disqus account with your email address.
  5. 5. If you use Twitter, Facebook or Google to log in, you will need to stay logged into that platform in order to comment. If you create a Disqus account instead, you'll need to remember your Disqus password. Either way, you can change your display name if you'd rather not show off your real name.
  6. 6. Don't be a huge jerk or do anything illegal, and you'll be fine.

Chattanooga Times Free Press Comments Policy

The Chattanooga Times Free Press web sites include interactive areas in which users can express opinions and share ideas and information. We cannot and do not monitor all of the material submitted to the website. Additionally, we do not control, and are not responsible for, content submitted by users. By using the web sites, you may be exposed to content that you may find offensive, indecent, inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise objectionable. You agree that you must evaluate, and bear all risks associated with, the use of the Times Free Press web sites and any content on the Times Free Press web sites, including, but not limited to, whether you should rely on such content. Notwithstanding the foregoing, you acknowledge that we shall have the right (but not the obligation) to review any content that you have submitted to the Times Free Press, and to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content that we determine, in our sole discretion, (a) does not comply with the terms and conditions of this agreement; (b) might violate any law, infringe upon the rights of third parties, or subject us to liability for any reason; or (c) might adversely affect our public image, reputation or goodwill. Moreover, we reserve the right to reject, delete, disable, or remove any content at any time, for the reasons set forth above, for any other reason, or for no reason. If you believe that any content on any of the Times Free Press websites infringes upon any copyrights that you own, please contact us pursuant to the procedures outlined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (Title 17 U.S.C. § 512) at the following address:

Copyright Agent
The Chattanooga Times Free Press
400 East 11th Street
Chattanooga, TN 37403
Phone: 423-757-6315