Volunteers have opened more than 125,000 of pieces of mail sent to Newtown by well-wishers across the world, and at Thursday night's Board of Finance meeting, officials approved funds that will distribute donations according to supporter's wishes -- whatever they may be.
"We got checks written out to everything in the world," said finance director Robert Tait. "We read the letters, we highlighted what they wanted."
Based on wishes expressed in the letters, volunteers working for days at Newtown Municipal Center assigned donations to Sandy Hook School, to police and first responders, to families of victims and a myriad of other destinations, said Tait.
The finance board voted Thursday to set up a public and private fund to distribute the approximately $256,000 in donations the town has received since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting on December 14. A newly established special revenue fund, totaling more than $176,000, will benefit local departments -- police, playgrounds and parks, first responders and fire departments -- and includes funds for schools, which will be sent for approval to the Board of Education.
"It's a small amount [compared to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund], but it represented a lot of work," said Tait. Local volunteers put in hours of work over the course of days, working alongside U.S. Postal Service volunteers at times.
"My wife was down there a couple times helping," said Finance Board chair John Kortze before voting to approve the funds. "She came home, walked right by me, and said, 'You would not believe what's going on down there.'"
How Donations Broke Down
While funds are still coming in, the finance director's initial report provides an impression of where donors wanted to see their money go.
More than $98,000 -- well over half of the special revenue fund -- was sent to the town of Newtown itself. These funds were placed in an undesignated category.
Police received about $15,000 in donations, first responders about $11,000, and another $11,000 went to playgrounds. Donations to Newtown School District, Sandy Hook School in particular, and children -- funds that will be handled by the Board of Education -- totaled $8,855.
Another trust fund will go directly to families of victims. On Thursday night, the board approved an appropriation giving victims' families a total of more than $78,000, sending the request to the Legislative Council.
The trust would be split between the 26 families, plus the two people wounded in the shooting. In addition, the trust will put $1,000 toward a scholarship fund. While all donations will be distributed in time, Tait said, the private purpose fund was a key priority.
"We want to get this to [the families] as soon as we can," he said.