published Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Chattanooga's Neediest Cases fund able to help in hard times

by Andrew Pantazi
Brenda Slater strokes the head of her grandson Chad as they sit on the their new front porch.
Brenda Slater strokes the head of her grandson Chad as they sit on the their new front porch.
Photo by Jenna Walker.
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Chattanooga's Neediest Cases Fund serves clients of the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults. The fund is administered by the Partnership to fulfill client needs that cannot be met through traditional funding sources. Donations are tax deductible as permitted by law. To donate, see the coupon on page . You also can donate online 24/7 at

Standing on her front porch, 55-year-old Brenda Slater talks about foundations and what it takes to raise three grandchildren on her own.

It takes volunteering 20 hours a month so her granddaughters can get a top-notch education at the Girls Leadership Academy.

It takes driving to her grandson's soccer matches and bringing the kids to church.

And sometimes it means asking for help.

About six years ago, Slater's only son died and she was given custody of his three children: 19-year-old Orttables, 16-year-old Tiombre and 10-year-old Chad.

Two years later, in 2007, Slater lost her job of 31 years at the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant.

Eventually, she called 211, a service that connects people with community organizations. Slater met the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults' Susan Geary, and Geary helped provide food vouchers, clothes and a new porch for Slater.

"A lot of people will help because it's their job, but she helps from the heart," Slater said about Geary.

At the beginning of 2011, Slater asked the Times Free Press' Neediest Cases fund for help in paying her $142 electricity bill.

Partnership staff tap the Neediest Cases fund year round to help clients whose needs cannot be met through traditional sources. The amounts requested can be as small as $35 for food to as much as a couple hundred dollars for utility bills. The faltering economy has led to more requests for the help this year, Partnership officials said.

Slater said that while raising her grandkids, she made sure they were doing their daily chores and their homework. She attended PTA meetings and ran concession stands at basketball games.

"In order to build up the children, you need a solid foundation," Slater said. "I'm their mother, their father, their granddaddy, their uncle."

Slater owns her home on Ivy Street, where she's lived since 1979. While she'd like a new roof, she said she has everything she needs.

She finds work from time to time cleaning houses on Signal Mountain and Lookout Mountain and in Collegedale, and when she's not working, she's a full-time parent.

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about Andrew Pantazi...

Andrew Pantazi is an intern at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who says that when he was 7 he knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life: play hockey for the Colorado Avalanche. Unfortunately, he says he wasn't any good at hockey, so he became a journalist instead. He writes about the lives we hide, like the man who suffered a stroke but smiled, or the football walk-on who endured 5 ...

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