The Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation is almost ready to close out and begin analyzing the results of an online survey it published in mid-December.
The foundation's grant distribution committee hopes to review survey findings to learn about unmet needs, and how its members can assist individuals and specific groups with the remaining $4.3 million.
After an initial distribution to survivors' families and victims, the remaining funds have been set aside to respond to both short and long-term concerns.
In an interview Monday with The Newtown Bee, Foundation Executive Director Jennifer Barahona, LCSW, said committee members hope to close the survey on or around January 22.
"The distribution committee is unique in that its 11 members are already able to share perspectives from various groups that were impacted by the tragedy," Ms Barahona said. "The first charge of the committee has been to solicit public input through this public survey as well as through soliciting feedback from impacted groups through committee members and myself."
Ms Barahona said when examining respondents who already took the survey, the committee has learned that the majority of respondents are parents and caregivers from the local school community.
"But we’d like to hear a bit more from emergency responders as well as young adults between the ages of 18 and 25," she said. "We’ve had 22 law enforcement officers take the survey so far and there were around 250 responding officers from Newtown and the State Police. So we know there are still dozens of other police and law enforcement officers from other agencies who could participate."
According to Ms Barahona, the committee is encouraged by the more than 1,450 responses it has already received, but the more participants the better.
She said when the committee meets again at the end of January members will do a final analysis of the results from the public input, and establish priority areas for the initial round of funding for this year.
The committee also plans to publish a summary of the findings from the survey once the data is examined.
"The survey outcomes plus additional information we gathered from the community will be published before the funding is announced," she said.
Beyond making funding recommendations, the committee anticipates being able to look at some of the issues related to community support following 12/14 such as limited coordinated information throughout the community as to the services available to assist those in need.
"If the committee is seeing issues arising beyond what we learn from the survey, we want to be a voice speaking to that," Ms Barahona said. "One of the questions asks whether there are barriers to respondents receiving the assistance they need, and we want to know what those barriers are."
She said the committee is hearing that people are not engaging support already available to them because they may not be aware of the full range of assets and services available.
"We want to help get that information out to everyone," Ms Barahona said. "I think that is something most or all of the funding and service providers are experiencing to some degree. We’re also trying to figure out where the service gaps are and close them whether it is with individuals or specific groups."
The distribution committee is dedicated to assisting the community with efforts to streamline information and resources to better assist in the recovery, she added.
The committee members thank those who have already responded identifying needs, and encourages those who live and work in Newtown to continue to reach out and support each other and work collaboratively to solve problems.
In related news, the distribution committee recently welcomed two additional members. Joining the group is Connie Sullivan, a Sandy Hook Elementary School third grade teacher, and the Reverend Rob Morris, pastor at Christ the King Lutheran Church.
"We always wanted a Sandy Hook teacher, but we didn’t want to hold the process up back in November waiting to find someone to serve," said Ms Barahona. "Pastor Morris just joined us in the past week, and we still have Monsignor Weiss on the [foundation board]."
She said that many Newtown residents often speak to their clergy leaders before anyone else about their concerns or a need for certain supports, and adding another clergy member helps the committee be better informed about concerns and ongoing needs within local faith communities or among their parishioners specifically.
Other members of the committee are: Chairman Chris McDonnell, Vice Chair Joeline Wruck, Addie Sandler, Bob Schmidt, Gavin Arneth, Jennifer Clark, Kevin Cragin, Rob Bazuro, and Scott Ruszczyk.
Up until January 22, the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation survey can be accessed at www.surveymonkey.com/s/nshcf.
(This report was updated to clarify that Monsignor Robert Weiss serves on the Foundation Board of Directors)