Story by Gordon Boyd
Eyewitness News Reporter

CHATTANOOGA (WRCB)-- For these parents of three, Black Friday is about paying the electric bill.

But someone's keeping the lights on, so they can pursue a better life.

The holidays can be more stressful for families who are barely hanging on.

They'd been working since the law said they were old enough: from bagging fast food and groceries to laying carpet and processing insurance claims until two years ago when the economy had other ideas.

Sound familiar?

Jameelah and Eddie Townsend are back on track, but its taken help from the "Neediest Cases Fund".

"Having children, you've just gotta suck it up and figure out what to do next," says Jameelah.

Jameelah and Eddie Townsend are the first to tell you layoffs have changed how they see everything.

"Where going out to dinner used to be a normal thing, especially for our kids, now going out to dinner is like going to Disney World," says Jameelah.

"I think education is the key part to basically living comfortably," says Eddie.

So, both are going to Chattanooga State full time.

Eddie wants to be a radiologic tech in four years.

Jameelah wants to manage medical bills and records in two years.

"For us, financial aid was a huge help," says Jameelah. "It also gave us money to help with our bills."

Until they were hit with a light bill totaling $109.62, a budget buster.

"It was a matter of me swallowing my pride and asking for help," says Jameelah.

A check from the Times Free Press' "Neediest Cases Fund" means they can keep 19-month-old Kya and 11-year-old Khalil clothed and fed.

And keep themselves in class.

"That's what mattered more, that there are people out there that care, that use to be. I always loved helping people," says Jameelah.

"It's very motivating for kids to see their parents taking on a parent's responsibility," says Eddie.

The struggles themselves they say, they wouldn't wish on anybody.

But they also believe they, and their children, are learning what no school nor lecture could teach.

"They're looking at us, and seeing how we work together," says Eddie.

"You'll never know when you need help so don't be afraid to help others," says Jameelah.

Eddie is still looking for a third-shift job so he can balance school and family.

The Times Free Press' "Neediest Cases Fund" is a last resort for many, through the Partnership for Families, Children and Adults.