Valley raised thousands in aid
True to form, the people of the Roaring Fork Valley and surrounding areas were very generous in charitable giving for those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Residents organized an auction in Glenwood Springs that raised close to $50,000, and a charity drive in Carbondale put on by the Carbondale Fire Department delivered nearly $30,000 to victims and their families.
Also, drawing from its 27 locations in Colorado, Alpine Bank collected $400,000 for the Red Cross, which established the Liberty Fund to gather and hold all the Sept. 11 donations.
The first chunk of money raised in the Carbondale fund-raiser, around $10,000, was personally taken to New York City last October by firefighters Rob Goodwin and Will Handville.
That check, plus the other $20,000, was split between the New York Firefighters 9/11 Fund and the Police Benevolent Association’s Widows and Children’s Fund.
“The main booth was set up at City Market,” Carbondale police chief Gene Schilling said. “I think a lot of people on the town staff and everyone else put their money in at City Market.”
The Sept. 29 silent auction was organized by the management at Aspen Valley Harley-Davidson in Glenwood Springs and hosted by Orrison Distributing. Products and services were donated by people from Aspen to Rifle.
“We canvassed the city and everyone donated whatever they could,” said Jan Cross, rentals manager at the motorcycle dealership. “It was totally contributions.”
Many of Glenwood Springs’ city employees, including fire and police personnel, chose to contribute to the cause through the auction.
“We participated with the auction at Orrison,” Glenwood Springs police chief Terry Wilson said. “They were great. They really did a good job putting it together.”
Glenwood Springs fire chief Mike Piper and his employees also used the auction as their way to contribute to the fund, and used the department’s nonprofit status to open a bank account for the funds.
The auction proceeds were split between a police fund, a firefighter’s fund and the Red Cross Liberty Disaster Fund.
“Alpine Bank held the funds and cut three checks,” Cross said.
Along with holding funds and helping to distribute the money, Alpine collected $400,000 from other donors.
“It was just open to anyone. We had a lot of corporate donations,” said the bank’s corporate marketing coordinator, Beth Drum. “We put out a press release that it was open and the money just rolled in.”
The final tally that came from the area is not known.
While some of the money from Western Slope towns was filtered through the Western Colorado chapter of the American Red Cross in Grand Junction, much was sent directly to the organization’s national office. Still more was sent to other charitable organizations set up for more specific purposes.
The Red Cross Western Colorado chapter’s executive director, John Drenth, said about $275,000 was collected in his office and sent to the national headquarters. The chapter is comprised of Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, Mesa, Delta and Montrose counties. Drenth didn’t have a county breakdown.
In addition to collecting money, the chapter sent around 20 volunteers to the attack sites on the East Coast. Drenth said his chapter was the second-largest supplier of Red Cross volunteers in the state, behind Denver.
“They did all kinds of stuff,” he said. “They expect our volunteers to be out there within 24 hours” when a request is made by the national office.
“We have people who are trained in specific areas. They go for three weeks at a time, then they take a week or two off. We had one guy go out there three times,” Drenth said.
Where did the money go?
As of Thursday, the American Red Cross had collected more than $1 billion for the Liberty Fund, with nearly $650 million spent or allocated. But questions and criticisms raised about some funds being held back by the organization resulted in the resignation of president and CEO Bernadine Healy last October.
In an open letter to the public, Terry J. Sicilia, CEO and manager for the Red Cross’ Denver chapter, apologized for any improprieties in distributing the money collected for the Liberty Fund.
“You’ve probably heard stories about the American Red Cross since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. And regrettably, not all of these stories have been positive. The work of the American Red Cross is tough and challenging, and mistakes occasionally can happen despite our best efforts. But I want you to know that you can trust that the American Red Cross is working harder than ever to improve lives and make our community a safer place to live and work. When we make mistakes, we admit them, learn from them, and move on to become a better, stronger organization as a result,” he wrote.
The organization insisted in its latest report that the money was and is being properly disbursed.
“To ensure donors that their financial contributions were properly allocated to meet the ongoing and long-term needs of the victims and their families, the Red Cross asked George Mitchell, former U.S. Senate majority leader, to serve as independent overseer of the Liberty Disaster Fund,” the report said.
Mitchell affirmed that the Red Cross allocated the funds appropriately and “continues to honor the intent of donors to help the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.”
Drenth confirmed the new policy of allocating every cent collected to those who need it. He said he was among the local chapter directors who called the national office to argue for the need to dole out all the money raised.
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