News / USA

Newspaper Fund Helps NYC's Neediest

New York Times continues century-old holiday tradition

Charles Smith and his son, Cie-Jay, are overcoming a series of traumatic personal setbacks.
Charles Smith and his son, Cie-Jay, are overcoming a series of traumatic personal setbacks.



The holiday season is traditionally a time for celebration and gift giving. But for New Yorkers facing dire health, financial or other challenges, life is far from merry. For 100 years, The New York Times has published some of these hard-luck stories and invited readers to contribute money to help.   

The seed for the Neediest Cases Fund was planted with a small, seemingly random act.

According to Michael Golden, who oversees the fund today, publisher Arthur Ochs was walking off a heavy holiday meal, in December 1911, when a stranger approached and politely asked for a handout. Ochs gave him a dollar and a job prospect.

"And then, as he walked away, he thought, ‘The end of the year is a traditional time for gift giving and a lot of good spirit. Perhaps the newspaper could do something on a grander scale.’ And that gave rise to the first Neediest Cases drive.”

A century later, the Neediest Cases Fund still helps people like Charles Smith, a client at Brooklyn Community Services, one of seven social service agencies the fund works with.

Michael Golden oversees The New York Times
Michael Golden oversees The New York Times "Neediest Cases Fund," which is now in its 100th year.

In 2008, Smith had a good job and was able to support his aging mother and young son. But within a year, Smith was diagnosed with cancer and forced to quit his job to undergo treatment. Without health insurance and nearly penniless, Smith and his son moved in with his mom, who soon developed a terminal illness.  

“When I began to get well, my mother passed away,” says Smith. “That was devastating as well. She was an anchor. It was traumatic going through it - the nightmares, the getting up in the middle of the night, talking cold showers, just to try to get myself together.”  

Smith turned to Brooklyn Community Services, which treated him for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and offered family counseling for him and his son - all subsidized by funds from Neediest Cases.

The Neediest Cases Fund also helped pay for counseling and incidental living expenses for Garvin Henry, 35, who has suffered from mental illness most of his life.   

“I’ve been having hard times in my life,” Henry recalls. “I was breaking down with depression, stress and anger.”   

Yet Henry has always excelled in making art. The fund subsidized an art therapy class for Henry and other challenged adults. It was a structured way for them to explore their feelings while playing to their strengths.

“I did my work also and they did their work and I am happy for myself and everybody else. This is like the biggest stepping stone for us to use to our advantage. It means a lot to me, a lot to them.”

The Cordis family was hit with more than their share of troubles. When family patriarch died suddenly in 2006, his wife suffered a nervous breakdown and is still unable to work. That left her teenage daughters, Judy and Christina, to fend for themselves and care for their younger brother David. Soon the family was living in a shelter.

With Neediest Cases funds, they received family counseling. Judy says the fund also gave David the money he needed for his eighth grade prom, which was a huge morale booster.   

“I would have felt horrible if he wasn’t able to do that. I would have felt like that’s something else we were unable to give him as his older sisters.”

The prom money was the start of a positive trend. Catholic Charities of America, another Times Neediest Cases Fund agency, helped the family sort out its immigration problems. It now seems American citizenship is on its way, and with it, the right to work, and leave the shelter.

Carolina Martinez is getting her life back on track after a year of setbacks including the death of her father, separating from her husband, getting sick and being evicted along with her two children.
Carolina Martinez is getting her life back on track after a year of setbacks including the death of her father, separating from her husband, getting sick and being evicted along with her two children.

The future once looked bright for Carolina Martinez. She had two young sons, a husband, good health and a dream of going to college and nursing school. But within one year, her father died, her husband left her, her schoolwork began to suffer, she developed a near fatal heart condition, her longtime apartment building was bought by developers, and she was evicted, with no money for moving expenses.  

“And then I said ‘What now?’ So I said, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, it’s all in your hands. I have no other way. I have no one else to ask.’”   

Within days, the Shorefront Y, a network agency of the UJA Federation of New York, told Martinez that the Neediest Cases Fund would cover her moving expenses. Today, back in college and on her way to nursing school, she intends to give back the help she has received by helping others. “Absolutely. At the end of the tunnel, there is light.”

The New York Times spotlights the tangible results of helping others, encouraging continued kindness. The dollar amount of donations to the Neediest Cases Fund has decreased recently, but the number of people contributing to it continues to rise.   

UJA-Federation of New York

You May Like

UN Ambassador Power Highlights Plight of Women Prisoners

She launches the 'Free the 20' campaign, aimed at profiling women being deprived of their freedom around the world More

Satellite Launch Sparks Spectacular Light Show

A slight delay in a satellite launch lit up the Florida sky early this morning More

Fleeing IS Killings in Syria, Family Reaches Bavaria

Exhausted, scared and under-nourished, Khalil and Maha's tale mirrors those of thousands of refugees from war-torn countries who have left their homes in the hopes of finding a better life More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs