The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation announced April 25 a number of developments pertaining to its work to support the community of Newtown in the wake of the Sandy Hook School tragedy.
The Foundation on Thursday announced the formation of an initial distribution committee assembled to determine the allocation of funds from The Sandy Hook School Support Fund to the 40 families most severely impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. The 40 families are those of the 26 victims, the families of 12 surviving children from classrooms directly involved in the shooting, and the two people injured at the school that Friday morning.
Retired Federal Judge Alan Nevas will serve as chairman of the distribution committee. Judge Nevas will be joined on the committee by Newtown residents Dr John Woodall and Joe Smialowski. Attorney Kenneth Feinberg will serve as special advisor to the committee. All four will serve without compensation.
Dr Charles Herrick, a member of the foundation’s board of directors, pointed out that throughout his distinguished career Judge Nevas has been known for his thoughtfulness, fairness, and integrity.
“In our meetings with the families of those most severely impacted by the events of 12/14, the one thing we heard more than any other was their desire to have an independent third party involved in the process,” said Dr Herrick. “The inclusion of Judge Nevas on this distribution committee with Dr Woodall and Joe Smialowski is in keeping with the foundation’s by-laws and brings a qualified, unimpeachable third party into the process.”
Judge Nevas, a retired Senior United States District Court Judge, was appointed to the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He held that position until retiring in 2009. Prior to his appointment to the bench Mr Nevas served as US Attorney for Connecticut for four years. Mr Nevas also represented Westport in the Connecticut House of Representatives from 1971 until 1977.
“I am humbled to serve in this capacity for the Newtown-Sandy Hook Foundation,” said Judge Nevas. “I have been very impressed by the dedication and commitment of the foundation’s board. Their talents in combination with the advice and counsel of a nationally respected expert like Ken Feinberg will no doubt be of great assistance to me, Dr Woodall, and Mr Smialowski.”
Dr Woodall is founder and director of The Unity Project, a resilience-building program for youth. Formerly of the faculty of Harvard Medical School, Dr Woodall is a board certified psychiatrist with a special expertise in post-traumatic stress disorder and resilience. The inclusion on the committee of an expert in trauma, resilience, and post-traumatic stress disorder was an expressed priority of the affected families.
The third member of the committee, 32-year Newtown resident Joe Smialowski, is a senior executive at Citigroup.
Attorney Kenneth Feinberg is a nationally recognized expert in managing relief funds created after various tragedies and disasters.
Following numerous meetings between the foundation and families it became clear that there was a preference for one, all-inclusive disbursement of funds rather than an initial disbursement followed by future disbursements. As a result, the foundation has announced that the initial release of funds to the 40 families most severely impacted by the events of 12/14 has been increased from $4 million to $7.7 million, a majority of the fund.
The distribution of $7.7 million will be completed by May 23, 2013.
The distribution committee announced its intention to hold two public hearings in Newtown to gather public input on the distribution of the $7.7 million. The public hearings will take place on Tuesday, May 7, from 6:30 to 9 pm, and Wednesday, May 8, from 10 am until 12:30 pm. The locations for the meeting is yet to be determined
“My sole objective is to distribute available compensation by May 23, 2013 to all eligible claimants without any restriction or precondition,” said Attorney Feinberg. “I look forward to working closely with the committee in their efforts to help the healing process for the families most severely impacted by the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and the greater Newtown community.”
The foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established to oversee the distribution of the more than $11 million that the Sandy Hook School Support Fund (“the fund”) received to date. Established jointly by United Way of Western Connecticut and Newtown Savings Bank, the fund was designed to support the Newtown community following 12/14.
In March 2013, the United Way of Western Connecticut transferred 100 percent of contributions made to the fund to the foundation. All subsequent donations will be transferred to the foundation on a monthly basis, ensuring that all of the money contributed to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund will be dispersed by the foundation in order to benefit the Newtown community.