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June 19, 2013

United Way of Western Connecticut’s Response to the December 14 Tragedy

Sandy Hook School Support Fund

  • Immediately following the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy on December 14, 2012, United Way of Western Connecticut and the Newtown Savings Bank created the Sandy Hook School Support Fund (SHSSF).
  • The SHSSF was established to receive financial donations, with the intent that the money raised would support families impacted by the tragedy, first responders, teachers, and the Newtown community in both the short and long-term.
  • On December 26, 2012, a Transition Team of community members was formed. That group took on the task of developing a structure and an organization that would serve as the community-based board responsible for the administration and management of the Sandy Hook School Support Fund. The United Way requested that a locally controlled and separate organization be responsible for how the monies ultimately would be distributed.
  • The Transition Team created the organizational documents for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation after consulting with national experts and conducting research on what other communities faced following mass tragedies.
  • To date, the SHSSF has raised $11.6 million.
  • United Way of Western Connecticut has not taken any fees or overhead expenses for the administration of the SHSSF. 100% of what was raised for the SHSSF will be transferred to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. 

Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation

  • On February 20, 2013 The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation, Inc. (The Foundation) was formed to distribute and provide oversight to the money raised through the SHSSF.
  • The Foundation is comprised of a board of local Newtown residents and leaders, including:
    • Benjamin B. Spragg, former Newtown Finance Director
    • Monsignor Robert Weiss, St. Rose of Lima Church
    • Dr. Charles Herrick, Chair of the Psychiatry Department at Danbury Hospital
    • Attorney Anne Ragusa
    • Joseph DiCandido, CEO of Nutek and former Legislative Council member.
  • In addition, there are three nonvoting, ex officio Directors:
    • Kim Morgan, CEO of United Way of Western Connecticut
    • John F. Trentacosta, President & CEO of Newtown Savings Bank
    • Will Rodgers, Newtown Selectman and local attorney
  • On March 6, 2013, United Way of Western Connecticut began transferring the SHSSF to the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation. To date, $11.6 million has been transferred to the Foundation.
  • On April 24, 2013, after research on multiple communities who had been through mass tragedies, the Foundation allocated $7.7 million to the 40 families most affected by the elementary school shooting. This group of beneficiaries includes the 26 families who lost loved ones, the 12 families of children who survived but were in the classrooms where other children and educators were killed, and two individuals who were injured but survived the tragedy.
  • A distribution committee was put in place to advise the allocation of the $7.7 million. Members of the committee are: Chair of the committee Judge Alan Nevas, Dr. John Woodall, and Joe Smialowski. Per the families’ request, Ken Feinberg, a victim compensation master with a national reputation, was asked to advise the committee and assist in the actual claims/distribution process.
  • This distribution was originally scheduled to be completed in May, but was temporarily paused while meetings were held at the request of the CT Attorney General George Jepsen.
  • On May 30, 2013, the Foundation received clearance from Connecticut’s Attorney General, George Jepsen, to move forward on the allocation. In that letter the Attorney General states, “…based on the information provided to date, it appears that the actions and decisions of the transition team and the Foundation, and the Fiduciaries’ support of those decisions, have been reasonable and compliant both with donor intent as well as the Foundation’s governing documents.”
  • The Foundation will meet with the families to re-initiate the process of distributing the $7.7 million.
  • Disbursements are planned to be made in July 2013.
  • Once the initial $7.7 million is distributed, the Foundation will engage the community to determine the allocation of the remaining funds to address long-term needs of the Newtown community.
  • A separate distribution committee with representation of those most impacted (school families, school staff, first responders, residents) will be created to assist in the allocation and timeline of the remaining funds.
  • Future contributions received will be directed to the community distribution process. For more information on the Foundation or to support the SHSSF, please visit www.nshcf.org. 

Additional Community Support

 In addition to the work around the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, United Way of Western Connecticut also provided leadership and support to many special initiatives following the tragedy, including:

School Support

  • Solicited and secured the in-kind donation of a complete two-way radio/emergency communication system for Sandy Hook Elementary School (SHES) which was relocated to the Town of Monroe following the tragedy
  • Acquired donated hotel room for interim SHES Principal for 6 months
  • Arranged for 17 children’s authors to visit the children of SHES, and the 3 other elementary schools in Newtown for a healing event
  • Arranged for SHES students’ participation in a Broadway event held for the families and the community
  • Committed financial support to teachers union for wellness activities identified as a need by SHES teachers via survey

Volunteer Support

  • Solicited and secured all technology needs for the Newtown Volunteer Task Force (NVTF) call center, created to respond to all incoming gifts, service donations and phone calls in response to the tragedy
  • Provided staffing support and volunteer management assistance for 11 weeks to NVTF
  • Connected NVTF with UW board member for pro-bono technology support

Funding for local mental health services

  • Newtown Youth and Family Services
  • Family & Children’s Aid
  • Wellmore
  • Healing Hearts
  • Kids in Crisis
  • SHACK- therapy dog program

Newtown Youth

  • Provided a grant to Newtown Youth Academy in support of their community healing events
  • Coordinated sporting/celebrity events for the children of SHES, first responders and the Newtown community

Support to the Town of Newtown

  • Connected town with Harwood Institute
  • Provided financial support towards school planning process
  • Provided financial support towards rental space for GE loaned executives
  • Provided 6 months of high-level communications support services towards managing large donors, sports and celebrity offers coming into the town
  • Participated on fund committee to help coordinate multiple funds

Community Support

  • Helped fund and staff a regional vigil 5 days after the tragedy at Western Connecticut State University (WCSU)
  • Connected multiple groups and residents to resources and other organizations through Symposium of Hope and Resiliency hosted at WCSU
  • Provided leadership and coordination among nonprofits in first 8 weeks
  • Participated on weekly conference calls with mental health coordinating council
  • Provided financial and mental health support to residents via a separate immediate needs fund
  • Created streamlined process in partnership with Rotary and Office of Victim Services for residents’ immediate needs

First Responders

  • Serve as processor for Sandy Hook Workers Assistance Fund (SHWAF); UWWC will not charged any fees or overhead expenses for the administration of the SHWAF
  • Connected Police with Heart 911, a post 9/11 organization run by former first responders and building trades people who focus on emergency response to disaster stricken communities, facilitation of mental health and build housing for wounded returning veterans
  • Providing grant for mental health, trauma and PTSD training

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UNITED WAY OF WESTERN CONNECTICUT

United Way of Western Connecticut advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all by focusing on the three key building blocks of education, income and health. United Way creates long lasting community change by addressing the underlying causes of problems that prevent progress in these areas. LIVE UNITED is a call to action for everyone to be a part of the change. For more information about United Way of Western Connecticut, please visit: www.uwwesternct.org.

Media Contact

United Way Worldwide:

Felipe Benitez, Director of Media and Public Relations
Felipe.Benitez@unitedway.org
703.836.7100 x 546

United Way of Western Connecticut: 

Isabel Almeida, EVP Workplace Development and Marketing
isabel.almeida@uwwesternct.org
(203) 792-5330 x106