WRITTEN BY: Michael Winter, USA TODAY
Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support after the Sandy Hook school massacre, Newtown, Conn., officials are asking the public to stop sending gifts, which the small town is struggling to manage.
Since the Dec. 14 slayings of 20 students and six faculty members, Newtown has been deluged with gifts, from tens of thousands of teddy bears, Barbie dolls and soccer balls to flowers, artwork and school supplies.
Officials said Wednesday that they would detail the best ways to help the community after the "warehouses full of items" are processed, the Associated Press reports.
Town officials issued a statement "to thank the people all over the world who have donated or are considering donating goods, services, or cash to help those affected," The Newtown Bee reports.
The town also offered extensive "general guidance" for all donations of money, goods or services. Some include:
* Contact the receiving organization first to determine whether it wishes the donation, and is prepared to receive it. Certain groups, including town and Board of Education offices, may wish to have you hold or send your donation elsewhere, to a central processing point, for instance.
* Please do not send perishable goods any longer, except at specific request. There is no way to distribute them in a timely fashion.
* Again, patience would be appreciated. Physical goods require resources for handling and those resources are strained. In most cases, each item requires some level of inspection by law enforcement by protocol as a precaution.
* Grass-roots volunteers should contact those entities they wish to serve directly.
* Sports, entertainment and other national organizations are asked to register and coordinate with a point of contact soon to be established and publicized. In the interim, if such groups need information regarding where to place proceeds, contact specific funds of your choice.
Public works crews are now picking up memorial flowers, cards, wreaths and notes for inclusion in a permanent memorial to honor the victims, First Selectman Pat Llodra said in a weekend "Code Red" call to residents.
"The thousands of flowers, letters, prayers, signs and photos, teddy bears and more, will be gathered and processed into soil that will serve in the foundation of a future permanent memorial to honor the slain children and adults,"Llodra said. "This will be sacred soil, holding all the sweet messages and symbols of love and hope, of kindness and sadness, visions for a better future, and promises to forever remember the ones lost in this sad attack."
The Sandy Hook School Support Fund at Newtown Savings Bank, established in partnership with the United Way, continues to receive donations. Officials addressed "some misinformation" regarding the fund and the United Way:
Neither the United Way nor Newtown Savings Bank has been taking any portion of the Fund whatsoever for administrative or other purposes. The funds collected remain 100 percent intact.
Neither the United Way nor Newtown Savings Bank will be determining how the moneys in the fund will be distributed. Instead, the fund will be turned over to a charitable entity to be formed by local officials with the input or assistance of state officials and disaster fund experts from the public and private sectors.
The United Way of Western Connecticut announced Wednesday that the fund stood at $3.5 million.