Foundation Gathers Donations for Fires, Shooting
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As the community begins to recover from the catastrophic events of the past two weeks, people from around the world are pouring donations into funds that will help the victims of the Borderline shooting and the Hill and Woolsey fires.
The Ventura County Community Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building philanthropy in the region, is managing the gifts and has assured residents that all contributions will help support the victims and survivors of both disasters.
“The Ventura County Community Foundation is not taking any administrative fees on either fund, so 100 percent of the contributions go out to those who need it most,” said Vanessa Bechtel, president and CEO of VCCF.
At this time, the organization is managing two major accounts, the Conejo Valley Victims Fund and the Hill Fire/Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort Fund.
The Conejo Valley Victims Fund will help the families of victims and survivors of the Nov. 7 Thousand Oaks shooting. Launched at 9 a.m. Nov. 8, 10 hours after the tragedy, the account is a collaborative effort among the city of Thousand Oaks, the California Community Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Amgen Foundation and others.
“We are at a loss for words but not actions,” VCCF board chair Scott Hansen said Nov. 8. “We have set up a victims’ relief and recovery fund this morning and are helping organize the wave of incoming support from individuals, companies and organizations.”
The Hill Fire/Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort Fund is intended to support the immediate needs of community organizations assisting those affected by the wildfires. The emergency fund was created the morning of Nov. 9.
“These tragic events have caused confusion, chaos and deep pain for so many,” Bechtel said. “So many in our community and surrounding areas (have stepped) forward to help with their time, skills, funds and connections. The outpouring . . . has been overwhelming and deeply meaningful.”
Major donations thus far include a $750,000 gift from Amgen Foundation, with $500,000 pledged to victims of the wildfires and $250,000 to the victims of the T.O. shooting. Wells Fargo, the Walmart Foundation, Facebook and United Airlines also contributed to wildfire relief efforts.
People around the world have offered gifts to the two funds, with grass-roots donations ranging from $5 to more than $1,000.
“The outpouring of support on the grass-roots funds has been something I have never seen,” Bechtel said. “At times, up to nine per second and often one to five per minute during varying stages of the past week.”
Putting money to use
VCCF has already used some of the donations to benefit those impacted by both tragedies.
On Nov. 9, the organization granted $70,000 to Interface Children and Family Services, a Camarillo-based nonprofit social services agency that specializes in case management across the county. The grant helped victims’ families and survivors of the Borderline shooting get basic necessities, including money for food, groceries, rent and travel expenses, new cellphones and clothing. It also helped victims’ families pay for memorial services.
For wildfire relief, VCCF awarded a $150,000 grant to the Pacific Coast and Ventura County Chapter of American Red Cross to help the organization continue recovery efforts in the area and purchase an emergency response vehicle to replace one destroyed last year in the Thomas fire.
VCCF also gave $5,000 to 805Help, a fund that brings internet connectivity to communities in Ventua County.
Leaders at VCCF plan to distribute money from the Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort Fund to nonprofits on a rolling basis. It is also working to give grants to organizations meeting urgent “unanticipated” needs. Applications are available at vccf.org.
“Eligibility (for the grants) is just being an organization in our community . . . working directly with those impacted,” Bechtel said.
Distributing proceeds from the Conejo Valley Victims Fund is more complex. VCCF is receiving assistance from law enforcement, the City of Thousand Oaks and Ken Fineberg, the attorney in charge of the 9/11 allocations, to distribute the funds to victims and their families.
“There are a lot of rules and constraints to mass disaster philanthropy . . . the most important thing for us is to preserve the dignity of those impacted,” Bechtel said.
VCCF would like to collect most of its funds by Nov. 30 and then distribute them to families based on need.
To remain transparent through the fundraising and distribution process, VCCF invited independent auditors to review all of the organization’s finances. The results of the audit will be available for the public to view.
The foundation hopes to raise more money for both tragedies during the coming weeks.
“ There is a tremendous amount of need remaining in order to help the families of the victims and survivors of the Borderline shooting,” Bechtel said.
She also hopes the organization can raise more than $1 million for wildfire relief during the first three weeks of the campaign.
To make a donation to the Conejo Valley Victims Fund or to the Hill Fire/Woolsey Fire Sudden and Urgent Needs Effort Fund, visit vccf.org. To partner with VCCF for a local fundraiser, email firstname.lastname@example.org.