Adam Lanza update: Sandy Hook shooting 'Newton Memorial Fund' flooded with donations

NEWTOWN, Conn. -- Every six minutes during the day, the Newtown Memorial Fund gets an online donation: $100, $50, sometimes $26, the number of children and adults killed at the school.

"We're at $493,000," said Newtown Memorial Fund founder Brian Mauriello.

The fund is waiting for IRS approval of its charity status, and at that point, Mauriello expects, corporate donations will push the tally past $8 million. He figures some of that money will pay for a memorial, but the majority will fund college scholarships for Newtown children.

Even as donations in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre slow — at its peak, the memorial fund was receiving a donation an average of every two minutes — the amounts are impressive.

The United Way has raised about $6.4 million for its Sandy Hook School Support Fund. Will Rodgers, a town selectman, will lead the formation of a foundation that will disburse the money.

What that fund will cover is still not decided. Mental health counseling is expected to be one use, but it could build a community center, help fund a memorial, or give financial support to families that lost relatives.

"This is not a fund that will be spent in six months. This should last several years," said Kim Morgan, CEO of the United Way of Western Connecticut. "We really want to build that fund up."

Newtown resident Rob Accomando has raised $1 million for My Sandy Hook Family Fund, initially intended to cover the costs of funerals, family travel and the like.

But none of the funds has spent any money yet. Nearly all of the services that would usually cost thousands of dollars — the funerals and post-funeral receptions, the flights for far-flung family, the hotel stays for those guests — were provided by companies free of charge.

Even the charities themselves are finding that lawyers, accountants, landlords, printers and others aren't willing to take money for their services and products.

Mauriello said he had three stamps made up for depositing the paper checks that have arrived. The stamp maker said: "Don't even think about paying me for this."

Newtown, with 27,560 residents, has many affluent residents, but not all are well off. When families that lost children asked for financial support, whether it was a suit for a funeral, a new washer and dryer, a mortgage payment, people have pulled out their checkbooks.

Tom Bittman, families and survivors liaison at Newtown United, a local nonprofit that was born in the wake of the shooting, said that while the new charities are still working on government paperwork, "some very generous anonymous donors are willing to help us solve immediate problems."

People from Newtown United or from My Sandy Hook Family Fund talk to a parent who explains he can't pay the mortgage, or she needs groceries delivered each week, and those needs are then communicated to the donors.

Bittman said the donor often will give more than the request, saying, "I want to do more than that."

He declined to give any dollar estimate of these gifts to the eight families that have gotten help with living expenses in the past month.

For outsiders who would like to help, there is no track record on which to research the brand-new charities, though their websites list the politicians, law firms and other community leaders who have joined their efforts.

There have been three unsubstantiated complaints to the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection about Newtown charities. A Bronx woman who claimed to be a fundraiser for one of the families faces federal charges.

Attorney General George Jepsen says getting an email or a phone solicitation for a Newtown-related charity should be a red flag.

Adam Lanza, 20, fatally shot 20 first-graders and six women at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 before killing himself. He killed his mother, Nancy, at their home earlier.

My Sandy Hook Family fund has talked to 18 of the 26 families that had a family member murdered at the school, though not all have asked for financial help.

Rob Accomando, who leads My Sandy Hook Family Fund, said one set of parents welcomed the volunteer support but said "they're looking to help other families, they don't need the money per se."

Even though My Sandy Hook Family Fund has not spent a dime of its $1 million, it hasn't been idle. Its volunteers proofread funeral programs and found printers who donated their services. They ferried surviving families to their relatives around the Northeast at Christmas. They plowed out the driveways of seven families. They've cleaned a few houses.

Bittman said several people have taken a leave of absence from their jobs for several months so they can volunteer to support mourning families.

"I have cried more every day in the past 18 days than ever in my life, and it's because of both the sadness but also the love and the generosity we see surrounding the families and

the town," Bittman said. "I'm crying now. It's a wonderful thing to see people doing whatever they can behind the scenes, anonymously."


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