By Stephanie Malench
After the tornado hit the Amazon warehouse in Edwardsville on December 10, people from across the country immediately wanted to know how they could help the families of the six employees who were killed and the employee who was seriously injured.
Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul issued a statement reminding potential donors “scammers are ready to take advantage, which is why it is important to be on the lookout for scam charities. I encourage people to visit the Attorney General’s website to find out whether a charity is registered and in compliance with state laws, or to contact my Charitable Trust Bureau to report concerns about an organization. Be an informed donor and ensure that your money reaches those in need.”
Many people are familiar with the American Red Cross responding to disasters, but according to tax laws, 501(c)3s which are steeped in community-first missions are not allowed to distribute money directly to individuals.
As a local option, the Edwardsville Community Foundation has activated its Relief Fund where “funds raised will go towards assisting the community.” On the donation for on their website, the fund description is “This fund will provide relief when natural disasters, storms, pandemics, etc. have negatively affected our community.”
This is the fund that Amazon donated one million dollars to, but that money is not exclusively for the seven victims’ families. An additional $200,000 has been donated to the fund by the community and local businesses.
According to Caryn Mefford, Vice Chair of the Edwardsville Community Foundation, the money in this fund will go towards “filling in the gaps in community services” such as investing in storm warning needs, rebuilding the community, and making it safer in the future.” The role of the Edwardsville Community Foundation in this disaster is “serving as the conduit of information and resources.”
Anita Busch, Key Founder and Mass Violence Relief Specialist for the National Compassion Fund and President of Victims First said that the primary goal at this time should be getting money into the hands of the victim base, which the Community Fund has already defined as the six families of the deceased and one person who was catastrophically injured. Busch, a Granite City native, has worked behind the scenes helping both victims and communities on 31 mass casualties over nine years (after her 23 year-old cousin Micayla was murdered in the mass shooting in the Aurora Theater). Busch’s family experienced a second mass shooting in 2017.
Busch began advocating for donations to go directly to the victims of tragedy after multiple experiences of community funds diverting money away from the victims who were directly impacted by a crime or natural disasters.
“It happens every time. They say they want to use the donations ‘to support the community’ or for ‘future disasters’ as people directly impacted suffer. Donor intent is clearly to help those suffering.” “It should be so easy,” Busch said. “Just divide all of the donations seven ways. Let them decide what their needs are and how best to spend the gift in this time of need and give them the privacy they deserve.” Busch said the Community Fund should be figuring out how to give the donations meant for the victims as a gift so they will not have a tax burden.
The National Compassion Fund has given out $100 million directly in cash payments to roughly 4,000 victims of mass casualty crime. The Fund has been strongly endorsed by those families who have suffered through mass casualties, from Columbine to Newtown and from Orlando to Parkland. The NCF is currently involved in the distribution plan for the condo collapse in Surfside, FL which killed 98 people.
Right now, the only option for individuals wanting to make contributions directly to the families is through each victim’s GoFund Me pages. Over the years, GoFund Me has improved its monitoring of pages created and they are a good avenue for giving directly to families. Just remember that there are fees involved the donor either pays additional based on the size of their donation or it comes out of the grand total.
The following are the links to the various donation sites:
Edwardsville Community Foundation ECF Relief Fund- ECF Relief Fund (fcsuite.com)
Clayton Copes final expenses- www.gofundme.com/f/clayton-copes-final-expenses?utm_medium=referral&utm_source=unknown&utm_campaign=com
Support for Austin’s Family after deadly tornado- www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-austins-family-after-deadly-tornado
In memory of Etheria Hebb- www.gofundme.com/f/in-memory-of-etheria-hebb
Larry Virden (Dad’s Funeral)- https://www.gofundme.com/f/2nd7wq-dads-funeral
Support for De-Andre Morrow’s Family- www.gofundme.com/f/support-for-deandre-morrows-family