At a January 18 press conference, retired US Senator Joseph Lieberman discussed his role in advising The Sandy Hook School Support Fund, the largest of the many charities that have formed since the December 14 mass shootings at the elementary school.
The fund, which currently is being overseen by the United Way of Western Connecticut and by the Newtown Savings Bank, so far has received approximately $8.5 million in donations in response to the 12/14 tragedy at Sandy Hook School.
Mr Lieberman said he cannot think of any other incident during his lifetime in Connecticut which was worse than the school shootings. He termed it “an almost unimaginable horror.”
The retired senator said that he is honored and he feels a sense of duty in terms of advising the charitable group. Mr Lieberman met with the fund’s transition team before the press conference.
The transition team comprises Andrew Buzzi, an attorney and town resident; Floyd Dugas, a lawyer for the Board of Education; Elizabeth Goehring, who is with the United Way; David Grogins, who is the town counsel; Debbie Leidlein, the chairman of the school board; Kim Morgan, the CEO of the United Way; Will Rodgers, a town selectman and an attorney; John Trentacosta, the president and CEO of Newtown Savings Bank; and Andrew Zeitlin, a United Way trustee and an attorney. Mr Rodgers is the transition team’s chairman.
Mr Rodgers said that the transition team has met about six times.
The team will soon create a foundation that will do charitable work and will serve as an “umbrella group” for the other charities that formed after 12/14. The foundation will receive public comment on how the funds that have been raised should be distributed, Mr Rodgers said.
Such an umbrella group would aid other, smaller charities, which might be overwhelmed by the complexities of the fundraising process, Mr Rodgers said.
After the transition team dissolves and a foundation is formed, Mr Lieberman would continue as an advisor to the foundation, Mr Rodgers said.
Mr Lieberman has a wealth of experience, Mr Rodgers said, noting the former senator’s work in the US Senate in the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy.
Mr Lieberman’s reputation for being straightforward, coupled with his affiliation with the Sandy Hook School Support Fund, would allay any fears that people might have about the fund, Mr Rodgers said.
“I’m happy to do anything that I can to be of help,” said Mr Lieberman, who is serving as an advisor without pay.
Mr Lieberman said there is the possibility that the positive actions that occur in the wake of 12/14 could serve as a model for both the United States and the world in the future.
Most importantly, care must be provided for the surviving families of those who were killed in the incident, he said. Also, steps must be taken to prevent such incidents from happening again, he said.
Mr Lieberman commended the town’s residents for their response to the tragedy. The citizens’ response to the incident illustrates the “best of America,” he said.
“Ultimately, this community will grow stronger in response to this loss,” he said.
Mr Lieberman said he would return to Newtown to visit the survivors of those who were killed.
President Barack Obama clearly was emotionally moved by what had happened in Newtown, Mr Lieberman said. The President visited Newtown on December 16, to console the survivors and participate in an interfaith memorial service.
President Obama has committed himself to pursuing sensible forms of gun control during his second term of office, Mr Lieberman said, noting the great advantage of the president’s support.
“In response to the horrific murders of December 14, the people of Newtown came together,” Mr Lieberman said.
The retired senator said he hopes that residents “stay together” in helping to decide how the charitable funds should be spent.
Ms Morgan said that the United Way has designated $200,000 in donations to serve as a fund that would cover the “immediate needs” of the families of those who were slain.
Uses for that fund would include helping those who face financial hardships and also providing mental health support services, she said.
Mr Lieberman said he expects that the transition team will go out of existence fairly soon, adding that the foundation might being doing its work “for quite some time.”
Mr Rodgers said he expects that the families of the deceased would play a substantial role in the functioning of the foundation.
“We have tried to be respectful of the families’ grief,” he said.
Ms Morgan said she expects donations to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to continue coming in steadily for the next one to two months. Many of the large donations have come from corporations, she said.