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United Ways Mobilize National Support System.

Funneling money to where it's needed

Within hours of the devastating attack on the World Trade Center, the United Way of New York City and the New York Community Trust established the September 11th Fund to help the victims of the terrorist attacks.

Around the nation United Ways began authorizing immediate grants of $100,000 and sending out missives to their constituents to contribute more.

In the eight hours after an online donation option to the fund was implemented, 1,100 pledges totaling $113,000 were generated from "foundation giving, family and corporate foundations and even individuals," said Ralph Dickerson, president and CEO of the UWNYC. "You also have the average Suzie and John Lunchbucket. The biggest thing (we) can do is make this effort."

When interviewed nearly 30 hours after the attack began in New York, the September 11th Fund had already raised $13 to $15 million, he said. By press time the UWNYC reported the fund at more than $97.9 million.

Lorie Slutsky head of the New York Community Trust, spoke of her organization's immediate, most important response the day of the attack: "The honest truth," she said, "is keep the offices open and staffed. ... Two staff people slept at the office."

Though her office is in mid-town Manhattan - a few miles away from the attack - the morning was filled with staff trying to reach friends and family, to say they were all right and to find out whether others were, too.

Allied with the United Way of New York City in the September 11th Fund, Slutsky said, "Our most important contribution would be to create a consolidated effort (to address) our most immediate needs and those weeks and months down the road."

Dickerson emphasized that the mental health issues will extend far beyond the immediate human service needs. "We understand that this is not just yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is long term," he said. "It's going to take people years."

United Ways near and far began responding to the call for the September 11th Fund and working their own networks in response. The day of the tragedy, several United Ways got together in a conference call, gleaning experience from Oklahoma City, Denver, Miami and other cities in which disasters - natural and otherwise - had occurred.

Holly Dunbar, director of communications and marketing for the United Way of Somerset County in New Jersey, a bedroom community for many who work in Manhattan, said UWSC established a relief fund for local families impacted by the attack.

"We're also accepting donations for the September 11th Fund. And we are disseminating information to people who want to help and who need help."

Dunbar said the organization has also begun disseminating information about grief counseling. "You need to see what needs become apparent as time goes on," she said. "Right now this is our course."

Heightened security and tension has become quite evident in Washington, D.C., also a target of the terrorist attacks and near the destruction at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Tony DiCristofaro, the communications director at the United Way of the National Capital Area - located just blocks away from the White House - said taking a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, "you can't pass a street that doesn't have a Humvee or Jeep or some sort of military vehicle or a soldier on the corner."

And in the express lane of the supermarket, he said, "The cashier just forgot what she was doing," he said. "She said, 'What do I do next?,'"

Tamara Klingler, senior vice president at the United Way of MiamiDade, said after Hurricane Andrew, Miami is particularly sensitive to tragedies. "It took a country to rebuild south Florida," she said. "It's our turn to reciprocate."

In addition to that sense of mission, however, Klingler stressed the need to share what doesn't necessarily work in these situations. "The other thing we learned after Hurricane Andrew, in-kind gifts that are not needed are not a help."

Mark Desmond, president of the United Way of Metropolitan Nashville, said that when the initial information about the September 11th Fund, at first called the National Response Fund, was disseminated, his organization sent it to 10,000 constituents and supporters.

Little more than 24 hours after the second of the Trade Center buildings collapsed, Desmond was waiting to discuss with the board chair sending a large grant to the September 11th Fund.

Not only dollars but also in-kind gifts have been requested. Desmond said that one of the local corporations, the Tennessee Bun Co., which makes the buns for McDonalds, offered two-way radios. "They are emailing the United Way email address, to find out if they're of value," he said.

The evening of the 11th, the United Way held a seminar for its Alexis deTocqueville donors -- those who've given more than $100,000 -- with a mutual funds expert who was flying in that morning. "While they were in the air, a person had a wireless email," Desmond said. "They didn't really believe it until they got a second email about the second tower."

After landing in Nashville as intended, the seminar went on, but his presence created an odd connection for Desmond. "He scrapped his prepared remarks, and talked about the short-term implications on the markets," he said. "It's kind of surreal to be talking about this with a man who's got his finger on the pulse (of the financial markets)."

Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of the United Way of Franklin County in Columbus, Ohio, said that numerous opportunities to give are emerging, and his organization is working with the Columbus Foundation and the local Red Cross to create a collective response.

They created Columbus Cares, which will collect gifts for the September 11th Fund and also encourage blood donations and gifts to the Red Cross's disaster relief fund as well as other groups supported by the Columbus Foundation. "It includes being willing to think and be involved in the long-term," he said.

"We've got a communication going to all our key donors and stakeholders," he said. "We'll have an ad that runs in our major daily newspaper over the weekend (immediately following the attack)."

He said that the immediate need is to make sure what they do has an avenue to the need. "It's blood, it's cash, it's volunteer time, and also sending the message that this is long term," he said. "We're already thinking through what are the next set of messages in terms of the needs we're going to have in Washington and New York."

Everyone knows someone

Brian Hassett, president and CEO of the Valley of the Sun United Way in Phoenix, said his board agreed to grant $100,000 from its reserve. "We had a subsequent $50,000 gift from a key company and board member," he said.

The organization put together a telethon with one of the local television stations within days of the attack. He noted that one woman called in and pledged $10 and minutes later her husband called and added another gift of $100.

Beyond the professional concerns, Hassett shared personal concerns, as well. "My cousin was there, he's a fireman. He's OK," he said. "I couldn't find my cousin all day yesterday, and I knew he was there. I finally got a hold of his mother. She said he was fine."

With friends and business associates and family members of employees among the victims, Dickerson and Slutsky said their personal feelings were much like those expressed by others in the New York metropolitan area. "This is a time for people to come together and pull together," Dickerson said. "We know people around the country just want to know what they can do. ... Pray and have faith that all communities will pull together."

"It was quite surreal, a vibrant bustling city was ground to a halt," Slutsky said. "We managed, like individuals do, to break it down into small pieces. ... We spent a good chunk of the morning trying to find out if people were alive or dead." The day also involved arranging to help people get home.

"We just had a phone call from one of our banks," Dickerson said toward the end of the interview. "They were on the 98th floor. We were sure there was nobody left. They reported fiat 78 percent (of their employees) were alive."

Slutsky added, "You pray for some ray of hope."
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:relief work fund raising after September 11th, 2001
Author:SINCLAIR, MATTHEW
Publication:The Non-profit Times
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2001
Words:1397
Previous Article:Valiant Efforts.
Next Article:Money Pouring In, Yet Fundraising On Hold.
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