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Neediest Cases Fund needs donations

Jaime Simonds’ never-ending day begins at 5:45 a.m., give or take a few minutes for one of the 11 alarms she has set to jostle her awake.

She puts her feet on the ground and gets her 2-year-old son, Eric, dressed before the day care bus pulls up at 6:30, and makes sure her 11-year-old little sister, Desiree, is up and getting ready for school.

Simonds has to leave in time to catch the 6:45 bus so she can make the right route connections to get to Chattanooga State Community College in time for class. She’s done by 9:15 a.m., and rides the bus to make it home by 10:45.

She eats and tries to sleep before heading out for her 3:45 p.m. shift at Convergys Corp. She handles customer phone calls until 12:30 a.m. — give or take a few minutes if a call goes long. She tries to be home by 1 a.m.

And then she sets the alarms again.

The 18-year-old sole breadwinner for a family of four expects that will be her routine for the next couple of years.

Simonds’ mother has health problems and stays home to care for the children when they come home from school.

But Simonds doesn’t complain about the daily grind. Every day is one day closer to her goals: To be a pediatrician, and a lawyer, and get another doctorate in something — finance, perhaps. To buck people’s stereotypes of the teen mom — and always — to take care of her family.

“No matter what’s going on, I’m getting there,” Simonds said. ” When I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it.”

But laser focus, big dreams and a tireless work ethic aren’t always enough to pay the bills. It is difficult for a $10-an-hour wage to keep pace with a four-member family’s expenses, and falling behind on bills can happen in no time.

Last year, Simonds was able to use $288.32 from the Times Free Press Neediest Cases Fund through the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults to pay her family’s power and water bills while she was trying to finish high school.

The Neediest Cases Fund seeks to provide year-round assistance to help people like Simonds, who find themselves with basic — yet crucial — needs that cannot be met through traditional sources for one reason or another. The amounts granted by the fund can be as small as $35 to get food on the table to as much as a couple of hundred dollars to keep the lights on and water running.

Last year, the Neediest Cases Fund campaign raised $57,000 from more than 450 donors. The money was used to help hundreds of people in need.

This year’s campaign began last week.