Through a vast community effort to help Floral Park families who lost a loved one to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Mayor Ann Corbett supports the formation of a Floral Park Community Spirit Fund. Village resident Bill Greulich, vice president of the Chamber of Commerce, will spearhead a committee of representatives from various organizations, institutions and individuals who want to work to organize the effort. Village Hall hosted a meeting Wednesday night, Sept. 26, to give interested residents and organizations time to brainstorm. Committee members were chosen after the meeting.
Residents collectively agreed the fund should be put into use as soon as possible and should cater to the individual needs of each family. Accountants, lawyers and others of the like offered professional expertise, saying the creation of a not-for-profit organization like the fund could take some time to develop.
Residents suggested those wanting to donate money to the fund can send it to already existing, not-for-profit organizations like the Kiwanis Club, Rotary, the Conservation Society and others. These clubs could collectively "hold" the money while the fund takes more definitive shape.
Although the number of those missing or presumed dead is still vague, Mayor Corbett said village hall has gotten two numbers - one number represents relatives of people that reside in Floral Park while the other reflects the actual number of Floral Park residents missing.
A representative from the village's police department said five families reported missing loved ones, keeping in mind others could have filed reports with agencies in New York City, which could possibly increase the tally.
Donated funds would not be in the village's name or be looked at as a village activity, Greulich said. The fund does however intend to pool money from all village organizations and use the collective dollars towards one need - helping affected families in any way possible. Residents said they aren't concerned with how the families use the money and frankly, they said, it's none of their business.
A representative from Our Lady of Victory questioned whether or not the fund could financially help families in other communities like Bellerose Village and Bellerose Terrace since affected Our Lady of Victory students live in these surrounding areas. The Junior Women's Club of Bellerose and members of the Methodist Church, which include non-village residents, are more than willing to take part in the relief effort.
The community must be aware the Floral Park Community Spirit Fund is evolving, that it's out there and they can help, a Covert Avenue Chamber of Commerce representative said, suggesting the committee take advantage of the 4-Village television channel, which serves Floral Park, South Floral Park, Bellerose and Stewart Manor.
"The 4-Village TV can communicate with all residents," he said. "That's its purpose. We have a natural means of communication so why not take advantage of it?"
Another resident suggested dividing up the money in terms of instant
relief, memorials, like the one proposed at Centennial Gardens, and the remaining funds allocated for future need. First and foremost, however, Greulich said the committee has to guarantee the affected families are in sync with wanting the financial help. "Of course, we will inform the families of the fund's intentions first," he said.
Floral Park Memorial High School students "hit the ground with their feet running the day after" terrorists wreaked havoc on New York City, a high school representative said. Through various efforts, students have already managed to raise $15,000 for the firefighters, police officers and families, as of Sept. 26, and are more than willing to participate in the fund.
Other suggestions include taking part in an annual high school project dubbed 'Adopt-A-Family.' Students could get a "cold list" of affected families and possibly help them financially through the adoption, the representative said. Also, the police department suggested a benefit softball game where merchants would sponsor so much money per inning.
Mayor Corbett said, out of respect to those mourning, village officials have not made contact with any of the families. "We will certainly talk to them eventually, when the time is appropriate."
Reverend Stevens from the Methodist Church said area clergy, including herself, could certainly approach the families on a more personal, one-to-one basis. "These people need money now," she said.
"Mortgage payments are due Oct. 1 and some don't have any more health insurance," another resident said. "We need to do this now."
"We need to strike when the iron's hot," said another. "Individual clubs can report back to their members and start collecting money now and hold on to it until the fund is set up."
Greulich said once the committee is formed, members must prioritize. "Our initial intent was to start up a committee of five to nine members," he said. "I would hope that whatever the outcome of the committee's actions, suggestions and decisions as to what the money will be used for would have the support of all the organizations involved."
After approximately an hour and a half of brainstorming, one resident reminded those willing to help that setting up this fund need not be complicated. "We came here tonight to help people in need. I think we're complicating it ourselves. There's small groups within this group, including members of church groups, the Junior Women's Club, etc. We raise money all the time without complications. We need to focus on the task at hand - helping these people."