Charity Flows to Help Those Hit by Tragedy

Air Force ROTC cadets at Colorado State University are accepting donations to be sent to Virginia Tech. Above, a student signs a square for a quilt.
Air Force ROTC cadets at Colorado State University are accepting donations to be sent to Virginia Tech. Above, a student signs a square for a quilt. (By V. Richard Haro -- Fort Collins Coloradoan Via Associated Press)
By Steve Hendrix
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 20, 2007

There are no buildings to reconstruct in Blacksburg, no crowds suffering without shelter, no teams of exhausted rescue workers to feed and house. But the impulse to help after a catastrophe is proving as strong in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre as it has been following other kinds of disasters.

People want to do something. For most, that means giving money.

"It really has been amazing, the number of people who have been calling from all over the world asking how they can make a donation," said Chuck Lionberger, a volunteer at the emergency phone center set up by Virginia Tech's university relations office. "Many that I have personally spoken to have been in tears. There's been such an outpouring of emotion and effort on behalf of the university."

Virginia Tech officials say they haven't had time to tally the checks and pledges that began pouring in almost as soon as the magnitude of the killings became clear Monday afternoon. But they know from the nonstop phone calls that Hokie alumni groups, elementary school classrooms, fraternities and churches are collecting money and want to know where to send it. They are being directed to the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, established this week and administered by the Virginia Tech Foundation.

"We're not just hearing from our alumni, we're hearing from people who have never heard of Virginia Tech," said Jane Stringer, the director of gift accounting for the school.

The fundraisers range from classroom collections to rock concerts. The Lima club in Northwest Washington has scheduled a salsa fundraiser for Monday. In Herndon, Cassel's Sports and Awards extended its hours yesterday to accommodate the demand for a memorial T-shirt. The Firehouse Grill in Fairfax planned to hold a concert last night with Sematic, whose musicians went to high school with Maxine Turner, one of the students killed Monday. The proceeds will go to Turner's family, said the club's owner, Joanna Nueno.

Dozens of national organizations, Stringer said, are also asking members to give. One of them is the Korean American Coalition, a group with 20 chapters around the country. The group set up its Virginia Tech memorial fund the day of the shootings, before it was known that the shooter was Korean, said Gie Kim, a Rosslyn lawyer who heads the Washington chapter.

"There are a lot of Korean Americans who attended Virginia Tech," Kim said. "That was our first thought. We heard from a lot of our student members who wanted us to do something to help."

The donations will be used for a variety of needs, said Stringer, from the huge counseling programs being offered around the town to future memorials and scholarships. The university also plans to send a representative to every funeral, including those in Israel, Egypt and other distant countries.

But the priority, Stringer said, is providing help to the victims and their families. The school hasn't decided whether that will mean financial support or medical or funeral assistance.

The impulse to send money has become a familiar aftereffect of high-profile calamities. Two-thirds of Americans donated to disaster-relief efforts after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.

"It's widespread, and it's quick," said Tim Seiler, the center's director of public service. "Within the first week, maybe two weeks, the outpouring will occur."

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