$456,000 distributed in emergency aid is just the start

In the hours following the mudslide along State Route 530 in Oso, first responders were on the scene, doing everything they could to make sense of the unbelievable tragedy.

In the days following the mudslide, the Red Cross and local agencies led by County Executive John Lovick and Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington did incredible work coordinating immediate relief and critical support to the Arlington, Darrington and Oso communities.

In the two weeks following the mudslide, as the focus shifted to recovery, more than 9,000 friends, neighbors and people from nearly every state and five countries have donated to the United Way Disaster Recovery Fund, raising over $1.47 million. We have also received significant support from local corporations and foundations, including $50,000 each from Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks Foundation and JPMorgan Chase.

When we established the Disaster Recovery Fund, we pledged to distribute 100 percent of the money raised to the communities that need it the most, working closely with local elected officials and long-standing partners in these communities.

As we saw the donations coming in through our website, uwsc.org, and through phone pledges during a telethon with KOMO News, we were touched by the unbelievable generosity and compassion from the community and their trust in United Way to be good stewards of their dollars and help where it is needed the most. We take that trust and responsibility very seriously, and are doing just that.

Last week, we distributed the first dollars from the recovery fund, $456,000, to the families and community service organizations affected by the disaster.

Of the $456,000, $400,000 went directly to families for immediate recovery needs such as temporary housing, child care, food, gas cards, commuting costs and support for local volunteers. We are working through the local family support centers in these communities in order to get these funds into the hands of the affected families.

An additional $50,000 went directly to support the community groups who are being called on to do so much during this difficult time.

The remaining $6,000 was distributed earlier in the week to Green Cross, a community service organization, to support their disaster mental health work, and Catholic Community Services to provide gas cards to the community.

This is only the beginning. The whole community has come together to support our neighbors in Oso, Darrington and Arlington. Our Volunteer Center staff have seen first-hand the generosity and willingness of so many to get personally involved. We are privileged to be working hand in hand with such stellar organizations as the Red Cross, Cascade Valley Hospital Foundation, Greater Everett Community Foundation, Salvation Army and numerous other organizations. Through a funders’ partnership, we are ensuring a collective response to meet both short term and long-term needs. We are also relying on local decision-making to ensure these funds get to the families and community service organizations that need them the most. This collaborative group will continue to meet over the coming months to assure coordination of our efforts as the region begins the process of moving from responding to immediate needs to ensuring long-term recovery.

Whenever tragedies like this occur, United Ways around the country move swiftly and decisively to help the impacted communities recover. We saw this after the tornado in Joplin, Mo., and Hurricane Sandy in the Northeast. Now, we’re seeing it in Oso.

While nothing could ever prepare anyone for such a devastating tragedy, we are honored by your trust in us and humbled by the outpouring of support we’ve received in the Disaster Recovery Fund. We’re committed to helping Oso, Arlington and Darrington recover. And we couldn’t do it without your tremendous support.

Andrew Ballard, president of Marketing Solutions, Inc., is United Way board chairman. Jerry Goodwin, CEO of Senior Aerospace, is United Way campaign chairman

How you can help

Individuals and organizations interested in contributing to the fund can find more information on United Way’s website at uwsc.org. Or you can text OSO to 37284 to donate any amount to the recovery fund.

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