Fund for Md. survivors of Sept. 11 attacks struggles

Scholarship effort, slow to meet goals, will make public plea at bridge walk

April 24, 2002|By Kate Shatzkin | Kate Shatzkin,SUN STAFF

After six months of planning, the Maryland Survivors Scholarship Fund - announced by the governor in November to benefit children of the state's Sept. 11 victims - will make its first public plea for funds at the annual Bay Bridge walk Sunday.

Now the question is: Will people give?

Although Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the fund would try to raise $500,000 before the end of last year, organizers say they knew right away it would take much longer to reach that goal. So far, the fund has raised about $40,000, with other commitments that organizers hope will bring the total to $100,000.

But it will take at least $1.5 million, they say, to endow scholarships for the 40 children and stepchildren of Marylanders who died in the terrorist attacks at the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and in Pennsylvania.

"Very quickly, we saw that this was going to take a longer time," said Kay Casstevens, Glendening's deputy chief of staff, who has been involved with the scholarship committee. "I explained that to the governor, and he understood completely."

Organizers plan to invest in the Maryland Prepaid College Trust or the Maryland College Savings Plan - both savings plans for higher education - to come up with $12,000 a year in current dollars for each child. That's roughly the cost of a year's tuition and room and board at the University of Maryland, College Park - though the money could be used at any college in the country.

`Great faith'

Doug Schmidt, head of the Greater Baltimore Technology Council and leader of the fund-raising effort, said organizers took time to research how many children would qualify for help, and tailor a plan to help each.

"I have great faith in Marylanders to respond to this appeal," Schmidt said.

But Schmidt acknowledged that initial requests to some Maryland foundations have met with less enthusiasm than he had hoped.

The foundations appear to have been stretched thin themselves by the demands of Sept. 11, he said.

On the other hand, Schmidt said, he has been pleasantly surprised at the response from young people who have been holding fund-raisers for the cause.

Pupils at Stevensville Middle School in Queen Anne's County, for example, already have raised $7,000 for the fund.

Challenges for charities

The scholarship fund will face the same challenges as any other charitable effort trying to compete for money after the disaster, said Patricia Nash, director of communications for Independent Sector, a national coalition of nonprofit groups that has researched donor attitudes after Sept. 11.

"They need to demonstrate that the need is still there," Nash said.

There is a need for scholarship money, Schmidt said. The manager of an alliance of large Sept. 11 scholarship funds estimated recently that it would take $147 million to provide college for children and spouses of the victims - $47 million more than the alliance had set as its initial goal.

Pat Grooss-Getzfred of Silver Spring, whose husband, Navy Capt. Lawrence D. Getzfred, died at the Pentagon, is hoping the scholarship effort reaches its goal.

Their daughters, 11 and 13, already talk about going to college - and their father always planned to send them.

Grooss-Getzfred has received money from the American Red Cross, and her husband had life insurance. But she is worried that she still may not be able to pay for college without further help.

She has not yet looked into what she might recover from a federal victims' compensation fund, which by some estimates will dispense an average of $1.85 million to each victim's family.

Many will get less after insurance and other benefits are subtracted, however.

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