Monday, September 14, 2009

ACA fund a team effort

September 13, 2009
ACA fund a team effort

Community donations will help victims, families of April 3 shootings

By Alan G. Hertel

April 3, 2009, is a day that most of us will never forget. The American Civic Association became the scene for senseless loss of life and injury to others. None of us could understand why this happened. What we did witness though, was a community that came together to respond to the needs of the victims and the community. People representing federal and state agencies, county organizations, faith-based organizations, elected officials, the business community, and numerous non-profit agencies came together and created a plan to deal with this tragedy.

One aspect of that plan was centered on how best to manage the resources - about $270,000, of which $70,000 has already been expended to help victims with various immediate needs - so generously donated by our community. A broad-based group was created, representing the various entities that would receive donations including Catholic Charities of Broome County, Broome County Council of Churches, United Way of Broome County, The Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier, and the American Civic Association. Other members included the Crime Victims Assistance Center, the Binghamton City Schools, the Community Foundation for South Central New York, the Broome County Bar Association, the Hinman, Howard and Kattel LLP and Broome County Department of Social Services.

This group of volunteers worked to establish a plan that would assure transparency, accountability, legality and equity in the eventual distribution of the donated funds. Research was conducted so we could possibly learn from other communities that had to deal with similar situations (Littleton, Colo., New York City, Omaha, Neb., etc.). We looked to organizations like UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and others for guidance as we traveled through uncharted territory.

We learned that each community and each situation was unique, and we needed to do what was right for our situation. Among the many questions that had to be answered were:

* What are the tax or public benefit implications to recipients of funds?

* Who is the proper person to receive the donation if the victim is deceased?

* What if the victim is no longer in this country?

* How do we determine who gets a donation and how much should it be?

The Crime Victims Assistance Center was established as the single point of contact for any and all victims for whatever need they were expressing. CVAC would then coordinate the services available to help an individual or family. This coordination of services helped to ensure no duplication of service occurred and that the victims were informed of all help available to them.

Certain immediate needs not covered by other programs were taken care of through donated funds at Catholic Charities or the Council of Churches. Examples of those immediate needs were travel costs to transport family from other countries to attend funerals, certain medical expenses, food, rent expenses (if the breadwinner was among the deceased, for example), and many more immediate/emergency needs.

We then developed a matrix to determine the amount each identified victim or family member would receive. Throughout this process, we were insistent on maintaining our neutrality so that we would not be unduly influenced by a particular situation. We are completing the last steps in this time-consuming and challenging process. Our plan is to have checks ready for distribution to the victims by Oct. 2. Details on the distribution of those checks will be made available to the recipients before that date. A full accounting of all money collected and the distribution of those funds also will be provided.

We are all deeply saddened by this tragedy and extend our sincerest sympathies and prayers to everyone impacted by this senseless act of violence. We also want to thank everyone who made donations to assist the victims and to all in our community who worked so hard and so tirelessly to respond to this unprecedented situation. This is but another example of the true caring nature of our wonderful community.

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