Monday, October 5, 2009

Donations paid out to victims' families, survivors of Binghamton ACA shooting

October 2, 2009
Donations paid out to victims' families, survivors of Binghamton ACA shooting

By Nancy Dooling

Six months after the April 3 massacre at the American Civic Association, local charities began paying out donations from the remaining $150,000 raised to help families of victims and survivors.

The roughly 60 payments work out to an average of about $2,500 each, but under the weighted system used by the charities, those who lost more will get more, said Alan Hertel, executive director of United Way of Broome County.

A committee of charity officials and other agencies decided how best to parcel out the money, Hertel said.

Family members of victims and survivors were not consulted in the process, and a list of who received money -- and how much -- was not made public.

"We needed to remain as neutral as possible," Hertel said. "We have to treat every family as equally as possible."

A month ago, Hertel said approximately $270,000 had been collected; of that, $70,000 was spent in the days after April 3 on expenses not covered by other aid. Costs included emergency rent payments to victims who lost the family breadwinner and food for families of immigrants who traveled to Binghamton for funerals.

At that time, Hertel said about $200,000 remained to be distributed to survivors. However, he said additional bills came due since then and were paid.

Some families already have decided what to do with their share of the money.

David Marsland, who lost his wife, Hong Xiu Mao in the April 3 massacre, will likely donate what he receives to needier families victimized, he said.

The family of Roberta "Bobbie" King will either donate the money to a scholarship fund in their mother's name at Binghamton High School or give it to local fundraising efforts to build a memorial park in Binghamton.

"Either the scholarship or the park would be appropriate," said Dr. Jeffrey King, one of Bobbie King's 10 children.

Under the payout, the two children of Marie and Marc Bernard, who were orphaned April 3 when both parents were killed, will get more than the survivors who were trapped for hours in the building while police searched for a gunman, said Hertel, who declined to list the names and amounts people received, citing privacy concerns.

Not all of the $150,000 was distributed Friday, Hertel said.

Thirteen victims died at the hands of gunman Jiverly Wong, 41, a Vietnamese immigrant. Wong killed 11 adult English students, their teacher (King) and caseworker Maria Zobniw.

Four others were seriously wounded before Wong turned one of his handguns on himself.

People and organizations began writing checks and hosting fundraisers in the days and weeks after April 3. Catholic Charities of Broome County collected the lion's share, with donations totaling $200,000. The Broome County Council of Churches collected about $50,000. The Islamic Organization of the Southern Tier collected about $8,000. United Way collected less than $5,000, Hertel said.

Those charities joined together to decide how to distribute the money. Other agencies involved include Binghamton's Crime Victims Assistance Center, Broome County Department of Social Services, the ACA and the Broome County Bar Association.

Deciding how much money to give families and survivors was a challenge, Hertel said.

Officials looked at whether children were involved, at losses of family breadwinners, and examined the on-going medical or housing needs of survivors when making decisions about how much money each person would receive.

Several legal issues are involved with giving money to victims who returned to their homelands after April 3. Those issues are now being resolved by attorneys and federal agencies, Hertel said.

People entitled to a payout were contacted this week and had to provide identification before receiving any money, Hertel said.

Money that isn't claimed in the next 30 days will be donated to the ACA, Hertel said.

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