LATHAM, N.Y. – One year, almost to the day, after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, trustees for the New York Credit Union Foundation will meet to decide how the Foundation will divide up the bulk of the $1.4 million that it collected in response to the attacks. Of the $1.4 million collected, about $200,000 has been distributed so far, mostly to families of victims who were credit union members and to credit unions upon whom the attack had a specific impact, according to Frank Kerbein, executive director of the Foundation. Families of credit union members killed in the attacks have been eligible to collect $1,000 from the Foundation, an amount Kerbein admitted the Foundation decided upon in the rush after last year's catastrophe. The Foundation had estimates that a third of the potential 3,000-plus victims had been credit union members and estimated that it could collect as much as $1 million for them. "1,000 families at $1,000 a piece is a million dollars," Kerbein said, explaining how the Foundation arrived at the $1,000 per family cap. Kerbein also said the pace of the fund's distribution has been set by the families themselves. "I don't know that we have been slow about distributing the funds," Kerbein said. "This is the first time we have done anything like this," he added. Kerbein said that relatively little of the money had been distributed so far because relatively few victims and credit unions had approached the Foundation about the money. He also said that the Foundation had been "very aware of our donors' emotional commitment to their donations" and that the Foundation had not felt any pressure to make a decision rapidly which might be a mistake. Nationally, victims of the September 11 attacks have been generally slow to approach for funds, either because they have not felt up to completing some of the necessary need assessments or because they have wanted to let the dust settle a bit, according to press reports. But Stephen Push, treasurer of the group Families of September 11, said families who have felt the need have been interested in approaching organizations that could help. "It sounds like there may have been a problem with outreach," Push said. Since the Foundation's individual donations were limited to the families of credit union members who died in the attack, no matter where the credit unions were, the Foundation publicized the availability of the funds primarily through credit union channels, Kerbein said. "We wrote to the credit unions in New York directly but we used all the available channels – the trade press and all our publications and Web sites to get the word out broadly to those eligible for help." The 14 credit unions that have facilities south of Canal Street in New York City are the institutions that have been eligible for part of the money, Kerbein said, but their access to the funds has been restricted to needs that were not met by insurance. Examples of needs which the foundation helped the credit unions meet have included trauma counseling for employees and volunteers in the wake of the attacks, as well as mailing costs for credit unions which, suddenly, found themselves doing a lot more of the communications through the mail since their members didn't want to, or couldn't, travel to the credit union in person. Push noted that there have been controversies about money available from various sources and whether taking money from one source would somehow preclude a victim's family from applying for any help from another source. These concerns could have been a factor in some of the cases, he noted, but those concerns are not rooted in fact. There should be no conflict between charitable sources, he said. But the Foundation trustees will face questions of whether, and how, to resolve a similar conflict in their upcoming meeting. Based on the applications for the money received so far, it is quite possible that funds might be available to give individual families more than the $1,000 originally allocated, Kerbein said. But if the Foundation approves larger grant amounts, Kerbein said, it is unclear whether previous grant recipients will be eligible to approach for additional funds. "The IRS regulations state that we have to ascertain specific needs for the funds that we give away to individuals," Kerbein explained. "Since the original $1,000 went to address a specific need it's unclear whether we would be able to grant any more money," he said, even as he acknowledged that ongoing needs might have continued. The Foundation trustees will consider allocating the balance of the funds into a mixture of three areas: more grants to individual families or using the funds to establish a scholarship fund for the children of September 11 victims; more money for the 14 credit unions with lingering uninsured costs because of the attacks; and making a donation of equipment to the New York City Fire Department to replace some that was lost in the Twin Towers collapse. Kerbein declined to estimate which of the three causes would get the most money but said that Foundation research had determined that the significant pieces of fire equipment, hook and ladders for example, can be had without tapping all the Foundation's money. The National Credit Union Foundation also collected money in the wake of the September 11 attacks and has distributed all the funds, according to Bruce Wheeler, director of donor and public relations for the National Foundation. The National Foundation collected $680,000, Wheeler reported. But Wheeler also made it clear that the National Foundation had an easier objective in its charitable distributions. In order to avoid duplicating the New York Foundation's objectives, the National Foundation divided its charitable donations primarily between two institutional recipients. Seventy five percent of the money went to the Red Cross and 25% went to the United Way's 911 Fund, he explained. Another $10,000 went to the New York Foundation as well, "to give off their fundraising efforts," Wheeler said. [email protected]

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