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Restoring Hope through the COVID-19 Crisis

by | Impact

Our neighbors needed help. You answered the call.

When COVID-19 hit our community last March, hundreds of individuals lost their jobs or experienced a shortage of income. And for some households, this meant they faced a choice between paying rent or putting food on the table. Many Greater Chattanoogas found themselves needing to ask for help for the first time. United Way of Greater Chattanooga immediately got to work pulling together resources to help our community and launched a new initiative: the Restore Hope Fund. 

The Restore Hope Fund is designed to support our neighbors experiencing wage loss or other adverse circumstances as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. When community members donate to this fund, the dollars directly impact our neighbors in need. Here’s how it works: 

  • United Way of Greater Chattanooga partnered with a number of community-based nonprofits providing immediate, on-the-ground assistance. These organizations have a successful history of supporting our community and are equipped to rise to the challenges of the pandemic. 
  • Individuals approach these organizations for assistance with things like rent and utility payments (and other areas of financial strain). The Restore Hope Fund partners listen to the needs of these individuals and both connect them with available resources and meet direct needs on a case-by-case basis. Keep reading for stories of the real impact made on our neighbors!

Our nonprofit Restore Hope partners have been working tirelessly since day one of the crisis, coordinating with United Way and assisting individuals, households and families. By directing assistance through community-based nonprofits, those in need have been connected to the resources they need for long-term support in addition to Restore Hope crisis support grants to cover basic necessities like rent and utilities. No less than fourteen nonprofits jumped on board to serve, including La Paz, Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga, Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga, Rock Bridge Community Church, Helen Ross McNabb Center, Clinica Medicos, Bethlehem Center, Chattanooga Area Command, Northside Neighborhood House, Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, Signal Centers, United Way of Rhea County and the Walker County Heartbeat Fund.

Our corporate partners got involved, too. The Restore Hope Fund received support from organizations like Truist, Maclellan Foundation, Chattanooga Whiskey, First Horizon, HamiCo Inc., Chattanooga Gas, Southtree and Pinnacle Financial Partners. Soon after the Fund launched, our partners at EPB and TVA offered to match donations made to the Fund up to $50,000. But generosity exceeded expectations, and they ended up raising $160,000 for the Fund, resulting in an incredible $320,000 investment in the lives of Greater Chattanoogans. 

Because of the outpouring of generosity from local organizations, the hard work and commitment of the nonprofit community and the support of individual donors and our caring community, $826,753 has been raised for the Restore Hope Fund to-date. That means the lives of 1,132 local households, including 1,719 adults and 1,505 children, have been touched. 

Real lives. Real Stories. Real hope. 

Those numbers are overwhelming. But the impact made through the Restore Hope Fund goes far beyond statistics. Here are the stories of three Restore Hope recipients in our community (all names have been changed for privacy).

The effects of COVID-19 made an outsized impact on single mothers. When the pandemic first hit and shelter-in-place orders were enacted, our local Volkswagen plant temporarily closed due to a lack of work. Ashley, a single mother with two children, was laid off as a result. With daycare centers closed and both children at home, Ashley struggled to find work that would replace her lost income and allow her to care for her kids. For the first time, she found herself in a position of needing to ask for help. She reached out to the Boys and Girls Club of Chattanooga, one of our Restore Hope nonprofit partners, and was approved for a grant. Because of Restore Hope donors, Ashley was able to pay her family’s rent, water and sewage bills and maintain stability for her children. 

Brie, another single mother, lost her job in nearby Walker County, Georgia due to the COVID-19 shutdown. Like Ashley, she struggled to find an income source while caring for her kids. As the sole provider for her family, she had no safety net, and found herself on the brink of financial crisis. Thankfully, her childrens’ school was made aware of the family’s situation, and Brie was connected to the Restore Hope Fund through Walker County Schools. She received funding to cover her household’s rent, electric and water bills, keeping them on their feet until she could return to work. 

Even nonprofit employees themselves were affected. Local father Roger lost his job as a contractor with Habitat for Humanity as the shutdown progressed — there wasn’t enough work to keep him on. Roger was used to a steady income, but the family had been living paycheck to paycheck, as many in our community do. With a wife and children to provide for, Roger reached out to the Jewish Federation of Greater Chattanooga in search of resources. The Jewish Fed connected the family to the Restore Hope Fund, and they received a grant to cover their rent and power bills. Because of Restore Hope donors, Roger was able to keep his family in a safe and stable home.

We are grateful for you.

None of this would have been possible without our amazing supporters and donors. Whether you gave your time, energy, money or just spread the word, thank you for being part of the incredible impact the Restore Hope Fund has made. Though there is still more work to be done as Greater Chattanooga continues to navigate and recover from this crisis, we hope each of you take a moment today to celebrate our community. The work ahead is too difficult to do alone, but far too important not to do together. Now more than ever, we truly believe that a connected community changes everything. 

Given the ongoing nature of the COVID-19 crisis, United Way of Greater Chattanooga plans to keep the Restore Hope Fund open for donors to continue to give. If you wish to contribute, you can do so here. 

 1] Steve Dubb et al., “Single Moms Hit Hard by Economic Impact of COVID-19,” Non Profit News | Nonprofit Quarterly, June 24, 2020, https://nonprofitquarterly.org/single-moms-hit-hard-by-economic-impact-of-covid-19/.