published Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Fund pays woman's electric bill

by Naomi Jagoda

In January 2011, Christina Tarpley was in a car accident. She hurt her neck, went to the hospital and had physical therapy, she said.

Tarpley, 26, was working at a Bi-Lo at the time, but because of the accident, she was out of work for three months.

In March, Tarpley couldn't afford an electric bill. She had been approved for a place in the Oak Ridge Apartments in Ringgold, Ga., but she said moving in wouldn't have worked if she hadn't been able to pay to keep the lights on.

So Tarpley turned to the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults for assistance and had her $278 electric bill paid for by the Neediest Cases Fund.

"Without the help, I wouldn't have been able to live in the apartment," Tarpley said.

Tarpley has worked with the Partnership since the first half of 2010, said her caseworker, Aisha Collins. Tarpley's kids -- now 7, 9 and 10 -- were taken away from her by the Tennessee Department of Child Services, and Tarpley is working to get them back.

"I know she loves her kids very much," Collins said.

Tarpley said her children were taken away because an ex-boyfriend had beaten her, which the state believes put the children in danger. Collins said the children were put into custody for reasons including neglect.

Collins works for the Partnership's Youth Services program, which first provides assistance to children but also helps parents.

"We help kids get the services they need," she said.

Tarpley still suffers from pain related to the car accident, saying her neck still hurts when there are changes in the weather.

However, since her electric bill was paid, Tarpley has returned to work at Bi-Lo as a part-time employee in the deli. In November, she started a second job working at a Waffle House.

She also got married in May and moved to Tunnel Hill, Ga., to a more cost-efficient place, she said.

"She's a hard worker," Collins said.

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