By DAVE ALTIMARI, email@example.com
The Hartford Courant
6:03 PM EDT, April 16, 2013
More than 40 charitable groups, many formed following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, have collected nearly $20.4 million since the Dec. 14 shooting, with about 15 percent of the money being distributed, the attorney general's office said Tuesday.
In an effort to get a handle on how much money had been collected, the attorney general's office and state Department of Consumer Protection sent a survey to more than 70 charities identified as raising money following the slaying of 20 first-graders and six women. Officials wanted to know how much money they raised, what they planned to use it for and whether any of it was going to the victims' families.
The responses showed that about $3 million has been distributed to a wide variety of causes.
Newtown Youth and Family Services has used some of the $1 million in donations to hire four employees to handle the crush of residents seeking counseling.
Donors.Org donated $250 gift cards to 453 Newtown teachers to be used to purchase materials for a project in their classrooms.
The Healing Newtown Arts Fund is using its $18,800 to create an art center to display some of the drawings sent to Newtown by children from throughout the world.
Pack 170, the local Boy Scout troop, indicated that it has raised $62,000 that it plans to split among the five families whose slain children were affiliated with the group. It has given $10,000 to the Benjamin Wheeler Foundation, named after one of the first-graders killed.
The Animal Center Inc. has collected $250,000 that will be put toward an animal sanctuary in honor of slain first-grader Catherine Hubbard.
My Sandy Hook Family Fund raised $1.5 million and has distributed $1 million to the 26 families.
Several funds indicated that they had distributed little money.
The Sandy Hook Parent Teacher Association has received nearly $800,000 in donations but spent only about $5,000 "to support our transition to the new school and to provide funds for events which bring together students, parents, and teachers and staff of SHS." Students from Sandy Hook Elementary moved to a school in Monroe.
When it submitted its response, the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation Inc., which controls the largest fund, had not committed any of its $11 million.
But last week, under growing criticism that it was moving too slowly, the foundation announced that it would release $4 million to 40 victims and families, including the 26 dead, 12 families whose children survived in the two first-grade classrooms attacked by shooter Adam Lanza and two shooting victims who survived. The foundation, which took over the fund from the United Way, did not announce how that money would be divided.
Some of the 26 victims' families met last week with attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who has advised organizers of funds following several mass murders, most recently in Aurora, Colo., the scene of the movie theater shooting in which 12 people were killed and 58 wounded.
Officials associated with the foundation have been adamant that the fund was not established as a victims' compensation fund but designed for use by the whole community. In its filing with the attorney general's office, the foundation makes it even clearer that it considers this a long-term fund.
The foundation indicated that it expects the funds to "be spent down over the next 15-20 years."
All of the surveys are being posted on the attorney general's website. At least 20 agencies did not respond. Attorney General George Jepsen said Tuesday that his office would be following up with those groups.
"This request was an initial step to provide information to the public, Newtown community and other charitable organizations trying to meet the needs of those affected by this tragedy," Jepsen said.
The Courant reported last month that more than $15 million had been collected by a wide-ranging group from national organizations to housewives in Missouri who sold bracelets. Only about 30 of them had registered with the consumer protection department, as required by law.
"Our offices may reach out in the future to all the charities to determine how the donations were expended and the steps taken to prevent fraud or misuse of funds," Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said. "We see this as a good first step toward providing transparency to the activities of the various funds, and guiding future donors who may wish to make a contribution."
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