Maryland charities coordinate Sept. 11 aid

United Way, Red Cross team up to disburse funds for victims' kin

October 31, 2001|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

Officials of the Central Maryland Red Cross and United Way have teamed up to start disbursing a share of the millions of dollars donated in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks to about 35 families in the state who lost relatives.

Using a model developed by charities in Oklahoma City, which joined forces to distribute contributions after the 1995 bombing that killed 168, the local organizations plan to hire case managers who will evaluate each family's situation and how much money each might need.

The charities hope to provide a centralized process for bereaved families to get help - and to avoid duplicating efforts, the heads of both local agencies said.

Nationally, charities are drawing criticism for a lack of coordination that has bounced grieving families from one agency to another for help. New York Attorney General Eliot L. Spitzer has been trying to organize a database that would keep track of charity given to all families of the victims - an effort the American Red Cross, the national organization that has brought in half the estimated $1.2 billion raised so far, agreed to join last week.

Charities in other states are forming similar partnerships.

"In each family's case, we want to keep track of what has been done for them from Day One," said Larry E. Walton, president of the United Way of Central Maryland. "That's why it's important for us all to work together on this."

The Maryland charities will hire Family & Children's Services of Central Maryland to interview families that want to apply for help.

The United Way will contact the families to tell them of available services. Those families that are interested can ask to be interviewed, either in an office or in their homes, Walton said.

"We don't want to be barging in," said Stan Levi, executive director of Family & Children's Services. "If families feel they don't want to deal with this or they're really OK, we certainly don't want to intrude."

Eight licensed clinical social workers will conduct the interviews, Levi said. The group intends to pay for the casework - at an hourly rate yet to be determined - out of the September 11th Fund. The fund, a national charity being administered by the United Way of New York and the New York Community Trust, had raised $337 million as of yesterday.

The Red Cross chapter will take care of victims' families' immediate needs through a $100 million national fund designed to cover expenses such as mortgage payments, funeral costs and utility bills, said Frank L. Miller Jr., executive director of the Red Cross of Central Maryland.

In addition to the 35 state families the group has targeted for help, Miller's Red Cross chapter plans to aid about 15 others in Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The United Way chapters in those communities also will assist.

Walton said he hopes to get an initial grant of $300,000 for Maryland families from the national September 11th Fund by the end of the week. That money will be used for long-term needs, Walton said, in accordance with a list of guidelines developed for the fund in New York.

The Maryland group plans to concentrate on individual cases rather than trying to divide the money into equal amounts. "You're going to try to preserve the lifestyle similar to what they've experienced," Miller said.

The three agencies plan to sign confidentiality agreements that will allow them to share client information only among themselves.

But translating needs into dollars is a new exercise. "This is probably the purest form of social work any of us has ever done," Walton said. "It's going to be an interesting thing to watch it progress, and we're going to learn from it."

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