This is what 100 Neediest Cases means for those in need
This holiday season, single mom Crystal was dealing with more than she thought she could bear.
After being sick for months, she was diagnosed with colon cancer at 36. She started undergoing treatment – endless doctor appointments, long hospital stays and countless tests. She had to take so much time off that she lost her job and needed to ask family and friends for help taking care of her five kids, ranging in age from 1 to 15.
“It’s very tough because I have a master’s degree in education, so I’m used to working,” Crystal recalled. “I’m not used to asking people for help. It’s a very humbling experience.”
“I was wondering, ‘How am I going to do this? How am I going to keep a roof over our heads?’” She continued. “When you’re my age, you don’t expect to have to think about dying, leaving your kids and who’s going to bury you.”
Thankfully, the 100 Neediest Cases program was there to help lift some of Crystal’s load – and her family’s spirits – just in time for the holidays.
Through 100 Neediest Cases, people from across the St. Louis region can adopt individuals and families in need and purchase essential items and gifts to make their holidays brighter. A St. Louis tradition for nearly a century, 100 Neediest Cases is run by volunteers in partnership with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which means 100% of donations go directly to people in need.
Crystal was enrolled in the program through nonprofit the Neighborhood Houses. Her family was adopted and received holiday gifts – from books for her inquisitive 5-year-old to a ride-on toy car for her son with autism who likes to sit in tight spaces – and help to pay for utilities, rent and food.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders. You’re thinking about how you’re not working and can’t make a good Christmas for them, but kids don’t understand that,” Crystal said. “It was a good feeling to know that someone cared enough to go out and pick out gifts for my kids. That happiness – I can remember it on tough days.”
Crystal’s experience with 100 Neediest Cases has inspired her to keep giving back as soon as she’s well again.
“When I was able, I’d give. I would feed homeless people with my leftovers at Thanksgiving,” Crystal said. “When I think about receiving, I say I’ve given. So if I need to receive at this point in my life, then that’s okay. Because this is something that I can eventually bounce back from, and when I get back on my feet, I’ll be a giver.”
Today, Crystal is recovering from surgery to remove scar tissue left behind by her chemotherapy. 100 Neediest Cases has been there for her for two holiday seasons.
“To me it means that there are people in the world who still believe in helping others,” she said. “Nobody expects these things to happen. But they do, and it’s nice to know there are organizations that want to help people. 100 Neediest Cases made an investment in helping me secure a future for me and my kids. It’s a wonderful thing when people just want to help other people.”
What your support means
This year, your support of 100 Neediest Cases helped more than 11,000 people have a brighter holiday season.
For the people helped, it means more than a holiday gift. It means relief from crippling stress. It means help with the things many of us take for granted: rent, utilities, car repairs, medicine, a pair of shoes or even a warm coat. It means not having to worry about one more thing.
Here’s what your support of 100 Neediest Cases means to some of the people helped.
“I really appreciate it. It means a lot to me; it means a lot to my children. My kids are going to be so happy.” -Ms. B.
“Since I’m on a fixed income, I can barely afford the appropriate items I need due to my health issues. I would not be able to get the diabetic shoes I need for my feet. This gift will help me purchase items I need for my health, instead of worrying if I can afford it.” -Anonymous
“I’m grateful for the help to pay my gas and lights and buy food.” -Ms. W.
“The soles of my shoes have little tread left, and I need a good pair of shoes. I’m disabled, so walking in snow and ice would have been treacherous. This gift will also ensure that I have my meds and will provide enough food for our pantry and fridge. I am so grateful and appreciative of this generous gift. I will always think of this program while wearing my new shoes, eating our Christmas dinner and knowing how many other people this program has helped.” -Ms. T.
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Emily Becherer is a proud native St. Louisan, writer and lover of stories in all their forms. Faced with a captivating question, she will research her way down a rabbit hole and emerge with words that educate and inspire. You can probably find her taking in a musical, bingeing through a new podcast series, exploring the trails at local parks or curating her extensive library of Spotify playlists.