On Christmas Day, 1911, Adolph Ochs, founder of the New York Times and, now, Chattanooga Times Free Press, was walking after dinner when he found a man – fed, but with nowhere to sleep that night. Ochs gave the man a few dollars and told him to come see him the following day if he needed a job. This sparked an idea for Ochs to use the newspaper as a way to tell stories of individuals in need so readers could donate to charity. And so, the Neediest Cases Fund was born.
Now, newspapers across the country have their own take on Neediest Cases campaigns. Locally, the Chattanooga Times Free Press has facilitated Neediest Cases every holiday season for over a century. The stories have changed, but the purpose of the fund hasn’t – helping someone in a difficult situation get back to stability with a one-time gift.
Starting after Thanksgiving, the Times Free Press publishes stories of Neediest Cases recipients through the end of the year. United Way of Greater Chattanooga manages the fund on behalf of the Times Free Press. Members of United Way’s team field requests for help and use the Neediest Cases fund as a critical resource for individuals in need. While gifts from the fund are not given directly to recipients, they are used to cover expenses or bills on behalf of the recipient.
Carmen Hutson, director of stability at United Way of Greater Chattanooga, says the importance of Neediest Cases can’t be overstated.
“There are so many opportunities to give to charity this time of year,” Hutson said. “Neediest Cases is unique because you can know your money will go directly to a local person who needs help to get out of a crisis. Your contribution can literally change someone’s life.”