Juneauites have given an unprecedented amount of money in response to the attacks on Sept. 11. Nearly $30,000 has passed through United Way of Southeast Alaska to help victims and families of the horrible tragedy. For that very reason, we your local United Way, would like to assure donors that, despite what has been stated in the national media, their dollars are thoughtfully and as quickly as possible being used to help the most people in the best possible way.
As of the end of October, some $337 million had been pledged to the Sept. 11 Fund. About $250 million had been collected and $34.4 million granted to agencies helping victims. Just like here in Southeast, United Way there works through established local nonprofit agencies because they are on the front lines and know the needs of individuals, families and businesses better than anybody. These grants are helping families honor those who died, pay rent and utility bills, put food on the table and meet tuition payments. While the emotional response to the tragedy could be and was immediate, the logistical response, with good reason, has been slower. Never before has anyone ever faced such a challenge. The infrastructure for emergency response and disaster relief in place was not prepared to handle the events and magnitude of Sept. 11. Time and patience are still needed but progress is being made. Here are the documented facts:
* Safe Horizon has written 8,594 checks totaling almost $8 million to victims and families in need of emergency assistance. This includes a dishwasher at Windows on the World who was off-duty at the time of the disaster and needed immediate help to pay his rent. Funds were also provided to the elderly parents of a woman lost in the disaster who had no way to pay the mortgage on the apartment they shared with their daughter.
* Grants have also been given to the New York City Fire Department to provide grief counseling to firefighters and their families. Additional grants have gone to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to help pay funeral expenses.
* Grants to allow community and ethnic newspapers to publish information for immigrants and non-English speaking people. And a "Get Help" resource referral guide was created for individuals, families, businesses and agencies seeking information and assistance.
* Grants have been provided for legal assistance around issues such access to bank accounts, death benefits, health insurance, custody, guardianship and small business recovery.
* Grants for emergency relocation expenses and service to youth agencies in the wake of the WTC bombing.
* Grants to replace destroyed volunteer ambulances providing backup for the city's EMS system.
No act of kindness should go unnoticed. Nor should the generosity of a caring community be ill-spent. You may have been a concerned citizen giving cash, a student asking others to give on behalf of those in need, one who washed cars or someone who cooked and served spaghetti; many gave in many ways. All can feel good about their giving.
In a time when skepticism is often warranted, know that United Way of Southeast Alaska is in close contact with United Way of America and United Way of New York City. They are committed to doing everything in their power to ensure that all money earmarked to address the needs that arose from those attacks is invested in the most effective and efficient manner possible. Hundreds of United Way staffers and volunteers many of whom have been personally affected by this tragedy have been working around the clock to do this job and this job alone. One hundred percent of the donations to the Sept. 11 Fund are being delivered to nonprofit agencies who are providing direct cash assistance and other services to victims, families and communities affected by the tragedies. Administrative fees for this fund were raised separately. One hundred percent of the donations for the Sept. 11 Fund are being delivered to nonprofit agencies providing direct cash assistance and needed services. The interest earned on the donations collected goes right back into the fund. We're your partner in our community and the faith you show in our ability to make a difference is important to us. Please phone 463-5530 if you have additional questions.
Marsha Riley is the executive director of United Way of Southeast Alaska.