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Nearing $3 million 'Buffalo 5/14 Survivors Fund' will ask for guidance in distributing donations

The fund set up by Tops and the National Compassion Fund is months away from distributing the money.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The fund created to assist those impacted by the mass shooting at Tops Markets on Jefferson Avenue is nearing the $3 million mark, four weeks after 10 people were killed and three were injured. 

The '5/14 Survivors Fund' was set up by Tops and the National Compassion Fund, days after the tragedy but it could be months before the money is distributed; largely because ensuring donations get to where they belong takes time.

“Our goal is to have a transparent, trauma-informed, and victim-centered process,” said Jeff Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund.

The same process has been used in the aftermath of tragedies like the mass shootings at a Las Vegas concert and Stoneman-Douglas High School. The National Compassion Fund puts together a committee of local leaders, which builds a proposal, called a draft protocol, that suggests a list of rules for how donations will be distributed.

"We need a trust and estates attorney, we need a psychological trauma expert, I don't know who these folks are but [these local folks] do and it's like who are the best people in your community that fit these roles and they're coming together," Dion said.

The draft protocol is then put out for public comment, which Dion said will happen early next week for Buffalo. A public hearing will also be held on a to-be-determined date.

Anyone can share how they feel about the rules and based on that input the committee will decide whether to make adjustments or not.

On Friday, Dion said he and the committee met with the families of the victims to try and inform them of the process and timeline. They along with survivors and people who were at the Tops store during the shooting will be eligible to receive money from the fund - how much will be determined when the fund closes in September.

"I'm very glad to hear they are moving forward toward putting out the rules of engagement," said Buffalo Commun Council Darius Pridgen.

Pridgen has been outspoken about the lack of communication from funds created following the tragedy and told 2 On Your Side a 'majority' of families affected by the tragedy on May 14 had expressed frustration with him about the lack of money available upfront.

"I think the concern you have people who were in the faces of these families, whatever you need we're going to be there to help you, we're going to pay for the funeral costs, and still nothing has been paid for," Pridgen said.

While the National Compassion Fund has been an exception Pridgen had a message for others who haven't fulfilled their promises.

"I think that anybody that collected money in the name of this massacre needs to put out rules of how funds will be distributed and how it will be decided now," he said.

Dion expects the distribution of money will conclude sometime in October because of the aforementioned process. He added that pledges made by corporations and money raised through other efforts like the 'Choose Love' t-shirts being sold by the Buffalo Bills take extra time. For those reasons, the fund will remain open for donations until September.

For families who can't wait to pay for expenses, Dion said that families should reach out for immediate assistance.

Anyone looking to follow the progress of the '5/14 Survivors Fund' can sign up for updates here.

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