"I got the idea for the name from the movie about the Marshall [University] football team,'' Mihailoff said, referring to the 2006 film "We Are Marshall." "Now it has become the most overused phrase out there."

Mihailoff doesn't know anything about the other two "We Are Newtown" and said he is focused on raising enough money to buy 20 granite benches, each inscribed with the name of a child who died.

He started selling green "We Are Newtown" bumper stickers at a few shops in town and by standing out at a commuter lot. He has sold more $11,400 worth of bumper stickers, enough to cover the costs of the benches. He said he hopes to raise enough more money to buy six more benches to honor the school personnel who died that day.

He is teaming up with the Newtown Forestry Association, which is planning its own memorial garden.

"Everyone is trying to do something, but really there isn't anything you can do for those little children,'' Mihailoff said. "I just hope 100 years from now, when somebody sits on that bench and sees the name of one of these little children, they will take the time to go and look up what happened to them."

As she sat in her Chesterfield, Mo., home watching the horror unfold at Sandy Hook, Tara Regan decided she had to do something to help.

"I have two boys, 5 and 8, and I wanted them to know even though we live far away, we can still help,'' Regan said.

She decided to sell bracelets that say "Sandy Hook Newtown Ct. Forever Angels." Within a day of starting a Facebook page, she had almost 800 orders. She has since sold more than 1,500 bracelets to people in 26 states. She raised about $7,700.

Regan said she recently called Newtown officials to get recommendations on where to donate the money and also checked out the various charities' websites. She eventually chose four charities — a fund set up in honor of slain student Olivia Engel, the Charlotte Bacon Act of Kindness Fund and funds for the first responders and teachers. Regan and Olivia's father, Brian, both graduated from New Milford High School, a few towns away.

Uncharted Territory

Rubenstein, the head of the department of consumer protection, said it is important for donors to research charities before deciding to donate. He advises against donating by credit card over the phone.

He said the challenge for some groups is figuring out how to dispense the money they've raised.

The Newtown Rotary Club, which has raised about $700,000, decided early that it needed a process to distribute funds quickly to the families.

"This was really uncharted territory, but our attitude was to put the money to work quickly,'' Rotarian Dan Rosenthal said.

The Rotary Club first worked through the Newtown First Selectmen's office, which alerted the group to families that needed money for mental health services or to help pay their mortgages. Rotary officials have now teamed up with the United Way of Western Connecticut, which also is providing money through its emergency fund, and the state Office of Victim Services to assist them.

Family of the victims, first responders, teachers or surviving students can contact the state office, which processes the application and determines the needs. The agency then alerts the Rotary Club about how much money is needed. It could be grocery gift cards or paying a utility bill.

Rosenthal said the club has distributed more than $70,000 so far.

"We thought it would have a chilling effect to have people in the community vetting who was going to get money,'' Rosenthal said. "Now we know people are getting helped out without having to come before the people they live with and ask for help."

Fair To Everyone

One fund has already given significant amounts of money to victims families: the My Sandy Hook Family Fund, which started in the kitchen of Rob and Deb Accomando, whose child attends Sandy Hook Elementary School.