New York Times Neediest Cases

In a Year Like No Other, a ‘Historic Crisis’ of Need

When Times readers heard the call of The Neediest Cases Fund’s annual campaign, they gave. And when a pandemic took hold, they gave again.


Destinee Gonzalez-Gil and her brother. // Sahsa Masvlov, The New York Times 

By Sara Aridi and Elisha Brown, The New York Times  

Ms. Gonzalez Gil was among those profiled in the 108th annual campaign of The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, which ran from October to January. Since Ms. Gonzalez Gil was featured in The Times, she has enrolled in the College of Mount Saint Vincent in the Bronx and is on track to study nursing with a full scholarship.

The Fund began in 1912, when the publisher, Adolph S. Ochs, sent a reporter out to New York City’s social services agencies to collect stories about hardship. The goal was to publish 100 stories. The short articles struck a chord with readers, who donated about $3,600. Since then, The Times has worked with nonprofit organizations each year and raised over $300 million total, which has been distributed not just to organizations in the city, but domestically and internationally as well.

The Fund’s 2020-21 campaign, the 109th, will feature weekly articles outside the paywall on how the agencies it supports are assisting those in need amid the pandemic. And it kicks off with a $1 million donation from the Ford Foundation.

“As a result of Covid-19, millions of New Yorkers are dealing with unprecedented economic insecurity,” said Darren Walker, the foundation’s president. “We in privileged positions must act to rise to the challenge of this historic crisis.”

Destinee Gonzalez Gil, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York

Ms. Gonzalez Gil, 19, said receiving her acceptance letter from the College of Mount Saint Vincent brought a sigh of relief. “I started crying,” she said.

Last year, Catholic Charities Community Services used $1,100 from The Fund to pay for a specialized SAT course for Ms. Gonzalez Gil, who struggled with anxiety when taking tests. While preparing for the exam, she was also trying to help care for her two young brothers with severe medical issues at their home in a Bronx public housing complex. Attending to them had inspired her to pursue a medical career.

After Ms. Gonzalez Gil’s story was in The Times, she received special donations from readers, enough to help with her family’s expenses, buy clothes for her brothers and purchase school supplies. Two companies lent her a hand with her SAT prep, and nurses from around the country sent her gifts and cards with words of encouragement.

“I’ve been very grateful,” Ms. Gonzalez Gil said.

The coronavirus pandemic has been challenging — her father was furloughed from his position as a heating, ventilation and air-conditioning service technician at the college — but readers’ support helped Ms. Gonzalez Gil and her family get by.

Over the summer, Ms. Gonzalez Gil took classes with the state’s Higher Education Opportunity Program, which helps low-income students prepare for college, and she interned at the mayor’s office and worked on the census outreach campaign through the state’s Learn and Earn program. She started her college coursework this week.

“I feel like my future’s very bright,” she said. “I know that everything’s going to be OK.”

Extended Story