Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Gussie West sits in her home Thursday morning. West received money from the Neediest Cases Fund to buy materials for a wheelchair ramp at her home. The ramp allows her to leave her home without the assistance of others.
Gussie West is a fun-loving woman who tries to help everyone she can, those who know her say.
Wearing a pink robe, her white hair combed in a side ponytail, West sits in her living room and watches her favorite TV shows: "The Price is Right" followed by "The Bold and the Beautiful."
She doesn't like to get out of her house much, she said. Her right knee has hurt every day since she had surgery on it 10 years ago.
She moves with the assistance of a walker or an electric wheelchair and, until last May, a small concrete step across her front door made it extremely difficult to go outside.
"I don't see a good day," said the 75-year-old Emma Wheeler Homes resident. "I pray every day to the Lord."
West must pay her rent and buy her medicines, some of her groceries and other needs on less than $700 a month. She needed $183 to buy material for a 10-foot wooden wheelchair ramp that a volunteer with Widow's Harvest Ministries offered to build.
Christina St. Germaine, Ward's case manager at the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults, turned to the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund for the money.
"The Neediest Cases is the only fund or account that we had that could pay for that," St. Germaine said.
"If it weren't for that fund, a lot of our clients would go without. [West] would be without this wheelchair ramp and would still be needing people to come help her," she said.
For 96 years, the Neediest Cases Fund has aided people throughout the region who can't get help elsewhere.
Sometimes it's through partnerships with other organizations to meet a specific need, like West's. Other times, it's helping someone with a pair of glasses or the first month's rent, Partnership officials say.
From Thanksgiving until the end of the year, the Chattanooga Times Free Press asks its readers to contribute to the Neediest Cases.
Even the tiniest sum can make a difference, said Sandra Hollett, chief executive officer with the Partnership.
West's close friend Gloria Shepherd said she has seen how much the small outlay for the ramp changed her friend's life.
"The ramp has helped her tremendously," Shepherd said. "Before, she needed someone to help her come up and down the step."
Now West can do it on her own, Shepherd said.
As for the Neediest Cases fund, Shepherd has this to say: "Help; help; help. It's a good thing to do."
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...