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On Christmas Day in 1911, Adolph S. Ochs, the publisher of The New York Times, met a man on the street without a place to sleep. Mr. Ochs gave the man his business card and several dollars. “If you’re looking for a job,” Mr. Ochs said, “come see me tomorrow.”
The experience inspired the publisher to think about the less fortunate. The following year Mr. Ochs sent a reporter to New York City’s private welfare agencies to tell the stories of people from disadvantaged backgrounds. The Times published profiles of these people in the newspaper. In response, readers started sending donations to what would come to be known as The Neediest Cases Fund.
The campaign has raised over $300 million since it began. The New York Times Company pays the administrative fees, and all of the money goes to those in need.
Every year since 1912, The Times has profiled people who were aided by donations to the campaign. This year, the reporters Elisha Brown and Sara Aridi were tapped to tell these stories. They reflected on their experiences and what they hope readers will take away. This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
What was the reporting process like?
ELISHA BROWNWe worked with seven organizations this year. The subjects of the articles have gotten aid through The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which raises money and donates it to aid organizations. People are given items like new winter clothes for their children or money to help cover expenses like medical bills. There was one person who needed MetroCards to get to college.
SARA ARIDIUsually, we would be assigned articles, then we coordinate with the agency. They ensure that people are comfortable and willing to answer some questions that might be a little sensitive or a little tough to answer. The reporting took me up to the Bronx a few times, it took me down to Brownsville a bunch of times, out to East New York, down to Bensonhurst and into Queens.
Who were some of the people that you profiled?
BROWN I enjoyed writing about one young woman, Evelyn Marin. She had been married to her husband for only a few months when he committed suicide. Then she received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. She had to have other surgeries but she overcame that in the past year, and now she is cleared to work again. To see someone keep going and get back on her feet is pretty inspiring.