Friday, November 16, 2001

9-11 fund saying thanks

By Jane Prendergast
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Cincinnati firefighters collected $613,000 for the families of New York firefighters, but now they're starting what might be an even bigger job: Figuring out how to thank everyone.

        Union leaders plan to write thank-you notes to every one of the 3,500 who wrote checks. As for how to spread their appreciation to cash donors, they're thinking about a billboard or a full-page newspaper ad.

        “People need to know that they helped not only the New York firefighters, but us too,” said Firefighter Joe Arnold. “All this support we found in the public — it has just meant a ton to us.”

        The local money went into the pot that will send each of 344 firefighters' families a $25,000 Thanksgiving check. Each family already has received two $10,000 checks.

        The national total stands at more than $64 million. Unlike the controversy over how the American Red Cross divvies its donations, the New York Firefighters 9-11 Disaster Relief Fund goes completely to the families.

        Here, as in cities around the country, the money was collected mostly from fill-the-boot campaigns. Firefighters stood at intersections, schoolkids saved their pennies. The $613,000 does not include an estimated $100,000 or more raised during a telethon. Union officials still don't know how much that will be.

        “We understand how generous the citizens of Cincinnati and the surrounding area were,” said George Burke, spokesman for the International Association of Firefighters union in Washington, D.C., which started the fund two days after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

        Cincinnati's tally compares favorably with amounts Mr. Burke has seen rolling in from local unions around the country, like $500,000 from San Antonio and $400,000 from Corpus Christi, Texas. Larger places generated bigger totals, with more than $4 million from a regional effort in south Florida.


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