United Way fund launched for Oso mudslide relief

United Way of Snohomish County is launching a new fund to help with long-term recovery efforts in the communities hard hit by Saturday’s massive mudslide.

With an initial $25,000 from the local United Way’s endowment fund, the Disaster Recovery Fund for Mudslide Relief will focus on needs that will follow immediate disaster efforts.

As soon as the fund was set up Tuesday, a $50,000 donation was made by JPMorgan Chase, bringing the total pledged to $75,000.

“We hope our grant helps bring some relief to those affected, and lets them know we are here to help,” Cree Zischke, region executive with Global Philanthropy for JPMorgan Chase, said in a statement Tuesday.

Dennis Smith, president and CEO of the local United Way, said the fund is modeled after one established by United Way of Lewis County in 2007 after flooding there devastated several towns and for a time closed I-5. Smith said that fund received more than $1 million in donations. That money was distributed in affected places within about four months, he said.

Smith said United Way will work with the mayors of Darrington and Arlington and other local leaders to determine “how best to invest these dollars.” And 100 percent of the money collected will be used to help, with none used for administrative costs, he said.

People wanting to help are asked to donate on the United Way of Snohomish County website, or send checks to the agency.

Smith praised the search and relief work of the American Red Cross and local agencies led by County Executive John Lovick and Snohomish County Emergency Management Director John Pennington since the slide occurred.

On Tuesday, “it became very clear the community is starting to reach out to us about how we can help,” Smith said. “When the affected communities are ready to start moving toward recovery, we will be ready, too.”

Neil Parekh, the local United Way’s vice president of marketing and communications, said the agency has established relationships in Darrington and Arlington, and recently awarded grants of more than $470,000, over a three-year period, that include help for the Darrington Family Support and Resource Center and programs at the Stillaguamish Senior Center.

The new fund will address unexpected needs caused by the mudslide.

“We live in a very generous community,” said Smith, who lives in Stanwood near the Stillaguamish River. “In this huge disaster, our thoughts and support go out to everyone affected. These are our neighbors and our friends.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

To donate

Information on how to donate to United Way of Snohomish County’s Disaster Recovery Fund for Mudslide Relief is online at: www.uwsc.org

Checks may be sent to: United Way of Snohomish County, attn: Finance Dept., 3120 McDougall Ave., Ste. 200, Everett, WA 98201.

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