More than $1-million has poured into a fund to help Newtown, Conn., and the survivors of the mass shooting there Friday, while a separate effort is raising at least $2,000 an hour online.
The United Way of Western Connecticut, which has created the biggest fund thus far, is now assembling people in Newtown to decide where the money should go.
Isabel Almeida, executive vice president of United Way, said her organization wants to be clear that it was just collecting the money, not setting priorities for distributing the money. "I live in Newtown and want to make sure we are benefiting the community directly. This is very raw and very emotional for us, which is why it’s important the community assesses what their short-term and long-term needs are in moving forward.”
On Friday, Brian Mauriello, a longtime Newtown resident who is vice president for sales at Kinsley Power Systems, established the Newtown Memorial Fund, which has raised over $40,000 in online contributions since its Web site debuted on Sunday. Mr. Mauriello estimates that the fund receives $2,000 every hour in online contributions.
Mr. Mauriello said that the original intention of the fund had been to cover the funeral expenses of those who died in the Sandy Hook shooting, but other donors stepped up to do that, so the fund shifted gears, expanding its focus to provide financial support to needy families of the victims.
In addition, the fund aims to offset unexpected expenses for the town—including compensation for police officers and continued support for teachers, students, and community members affected by the tragedy.
"There has been a tremendous outpouring of support," said Mr. Mauriello. "In light of the horribleness, it renews your faith in the human condition and in people you’ve never met."
Mr. Mauriello said he is determined to make sure donors have trust in his fund. "We're logging each check as it comes in, recording the name of the donor and the amount of money given, including if they requested their money be used in a specific way. We will acknowledge all donors with a letter thanking them for their contribution and we plan to make our first large disbursement in the next two weeks."
After dealing with the immediate needs in Newtown, the fund plans to finance indoor and outdoor memorials in honor of the victims who died at Sandy Hook and to create an annual scholarship fund.
"With the fund, we want to establish a legacy, and because this tragedy happened at a school, what's more appropriate than a scholarship? In a couple of months, other organizations will go back to fundraising for other disasters, but we want to work toward something with a multigenerational span," Mr. Mauriello said.