The Forgotten Child Fund is seeking the public’s help as the beloved Chattanooga institution is facing eviction in February.
“This organization has been running since 1965, and this is our 55th Christmas season,” president Kelly Simmons said. “We’ve been informed by the mayor of Chattanooga Andy Berke and his administration that we have to vacate the premises of our warehouse where we have been for the last 11 years.”
Mr. Simmons said the warehouse will be given to the AIM Center to build an apartment complex that will contain 15 apartments for its clients and 45 apartments for low-income residents.
The FCF is run by volunteers who find and give Christmas gifts to underprivileged children. Mr. Simmons said FCF helped almost 15,000 children last year. He said the FCF hopes someone from the public will be able to help them in their quest to find a new warehouse.
“You can call the mayor’s office, and you can call your Council members,” Mr. Simmons said. “They know what’s going on there too. We’re just trying to find a place for the FCF to find a home. There’s actually two other charities in this building: the Furniture Bank and the Homeless Coalition. So we’re all going to be evicted Feb. 28.”
Public information officer Clay Ingle emphasized how FCF is a volunteer organization, one that uses almost all of the money it receives to buy toys for children, and only the bare minimum to pay for the electricity, water, and gas for the building and their vehicles. Mr. Ingle said there are only a few parameters a new building needs to meet its purposes.
“We’re using 19,000 square feet, and we can probably get by with 15,000,” Mr. Ingle said. “But we need a loading dock and we want to be in the inner city, where the people who need us the most can get to us on the bus lines.”
“We just need somewhere to go in February. Hopefully it’s permanent, but if nothing else it’s something temporary. And we’re hoping you can convince the City Council or the mayor’s office to see if there’s something else out there.”
Mr. Ingle said that if they cannot find a building soon, the effects will be “devastating.” And even if they have to work out of a smaller warehouse, that will restrict their ability to reach out to the number of children they are able to now, he said.
“We know our numbers are going to be down from last year, and our Santa Train will be different too,” Mr. Ingle said. “But this will be devastating. If we’re operating out of a small building, that determines how many kids we can help. If we can only help 5,000 kids, that means 9,000 kids will be going without a Christmas.”
“I think there are people in the public who will step up and say, “We have to help these people. We’re not looking for money, but if you want to donate to our Forgotten Child Fund for your regular Christmas donation, then please give it because we’re still giving Christmas gifts out.”
Even though the mayor’s administration is evicting the organization, the FCF does not seem to harbor any ill will toward the administration. Mr. Ingle said, “I think the mayor’s office is trying to make an attempt to do this in a right and honest way. But I think because of the way things are (with COVID), it’s harder on them.”
Even though the situation looks dire for FCF, its two leaders have faith in the local Chattanooga community being able to help them find a new home.
“This is the greatest place in the world, because we’re a great community that comes to each other’s help,” Mr. Ingle said. “I think something will happen. If the words gets out maybe we’ll get us a home.”
If one wishes to contact Clay Ingle, they can call 423 280-5008.