Nonprofits still have relief money left to distribute

EVERETT — The three nonprofits that raised the most money for disaster relief after the March 22 Oso mudslide are considering how the remainder of that money will be distributed.

Between the Snohomish County chapter of the American Red Cross, United Way of Snohomish County and the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, $8 million in donations has been raised after the disaster that destroyed a neighborhood along the North Fork Stillaguamish River.

So far United Way has disbursed $1.3 million of the $2.4 million it has raised. The Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation has passed on about $1 million of $1.7 million that has come in. The Red Cross has given out $1.6 million of $3.9 million in total donations.

All three organizations have been careful to strike a balance between getting much-needed money out into the community quickly to help with immediate recovery efforts and holding some in reserve to address issues that would only emerge over the longer term.

“There’s more to be distributed than has been distributed to date,” United Way CEO Dennis Smith said.

But United Way has decided to cease accepting donations to its Disaster Recovery Fund after Sept. 22, and Smith said he expects the fund to be completely disbursed by Oct. 1.

The rate that money has come into the fund has “slowed way down” lately, Smith said.

“We’ve kept it open because we know from time to time that something would come in,” Smith said. For example, he gave a talk recently and two people came forward with a couple of $100 checks.

New donations coming in after the fund is closed that are designated for slide relief will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

And while United Way is still funding ongoing relief efforts around Oso, Darrington and Arlington, the organization also has returned to some regular activities, such as an annual spring fundraising campaign.

“Part of our work is responding to the needs of the whole community,” Smith said.

Neither the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation nor the American Red Cross have put an end date to their disaster relief funds, but they are looking toward the summer and fall and trying to anticipate the needs they will be facing.

“The needs continue to change,” said hospital foundation board member Heather Logan. The foundation’s board members, she said, “are very cognizant that new needs may emerge at the six-month mark” and beyond.

The Red Cross doesn’t have a set schedule for disbursing remaining funds, said Chuck Morrison, the organization’s regional executive director.

But he anticipates that the vast amount of generosity shown in the wake of the mudslide will have some downstream effect on other charities.

“We think food banks will need help in the holiday season,” Morrison said.

But that is neither a promise nor a plan, because the needs of the community can change quickly, he said.

For example, the Red Cross handed out several thousand gas cards in the weeks following the slide.

The reopening of Highway 530 on May 31, much earlier than originally anticipated, has largely eliminated that issue.

“That need disappeared really quickly, thanks to the great work by the Department of Transportation,” Morrison said.

On the other hand, the Red Cross is still funding case managers from Catholic Community Services for the next six months who work on Snohomish County’s larger team of “navigators” to connect victims with necessary services.

In addition, the Red Cross is also funding Volunteers of America to keep mental health counselors in the area for the next four months at least, Morrison said.

In both cases, the Red Cross will review the ongoing needs and adjust plans accordingly, he said.

United Way and the Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation have settled on more broad-based strategies for disbursing their remaining funds.

United Way maintains a distinction between money raised from individual donations, which is targeted toward helping individuals and families, and that from corporate sponsors, which is used to address more organizational and broader community needs, such as funding additional staff for two family support centers and providing $150,000 to Hampton Mill in Darrington to compensate the additional miles the truckers needed to drive while the highway was closed.

Of the $2.4 million raised by the United Way to date, $600,000 came in the form of corporate donations, CEO Smith said.

The Arlington Family Resource Project and North Counties Family Services in Darrington are the two primary organizations passing United Way’s and the hospital foundation’s money to individuals and families.

The United Way has also donated to the Oso Fireman’s Fund, the nonprofit arm of the volunteer Oso Fire Department.

“All the money donated from individuals saying, ‘We want to help those people,’ we wanted to make sure those dollars went to the individuals and families,” Smith said.

Both United Way and the hospital foundation have indicated that 70 percent of the money raised to help individuals and families will be dedicated solely to those who lost a family member or their home in the Oso slide.

Among the casualties are 43 dead, one of whom is still missing in the square mile of debris.

In addition, 48 homes were destroyed or damaged by the slide, many of them the owners’ primary residences.

The remaining 30 percent would help people in the larger area, as Smith put it, whose lives were affected but not devastated.

That 70-30 split is roughly the same ratio of money that has already been disbursed into the broader community since the charitable work began, he said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165;

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