By SUSAN HAIGH
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Millions of dollars in unsolicited contributions suddenly poured in to Connecticut from around the nation and the world following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a phenomenon that differed from natural disasters, where donors know to send money to established charities, the state’s consumer protection commissioner said Friday.
William Rubenstein described to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s Sandy Hook Advisory Commission how cash, checks and in-kind gifts were sent to the Newtown Town Hall, churches, local banks, the United Way and other charitable funds. In some cases, the donors spelled out how they wanted the money to be spent. Other donations came with little to no guidance.
“This is a very unusual way in which money is collected by philanthropic entities,” Rubenstein said, adding that more than $20 million in contributions flowed into Connecticut following the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre, which left 20 first graders and six educators dead.
Along with the rush of contributions came a rush of new charitable organizations.
“Scores of these entities popped up here in Connecticut and a lot of money was donated, both solicited and unsolicited,” Rubenstein said. “Donors feeling compelled by their hearts to give don’t know whom to give to.”
Despite the confusion and no recognizable structure that could accept donations, Rubenstein said, there was minimal outright fraud. He credited efforts by his office and the state Attorney General’s Office in warning the public to be vigilant, and to catalog and verify the charitable groups that sprouted up following the shooting.
Rubenstein said the state has since created the potential for a new structure _ the Connecticut Coordinated Assistance and Recovery Endowment or CT CARE Fund _ capable of immediately setting up a disaster-specific fund in case of a special disaster.
He told committee members the private philanthropic community could do a better job in creating “potential donor pathways in advance of such disasters” so the public is aware of where it can turn when the need arises.
Malloy’s 16-member commission is reviewing current policies and making recommendations on public safety issues, focusing on school safety, mental health and gun violence prevention in the wake of the shooting. The group hopes to make recommendations to both Connecticut policymakers and public officials across the country. Some suggested Friday the CT CARE Fund concept might be recommended as a national model for coordinating charitable donations in future incidents.
Rubenstein stressed that for something like the CT Care Fund to work, donors must feel comfortable with the fund and know it is capable of delivering the money to a wide range of community needs.
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