As El Paso grieves alongside the families of 22 people shot dead at the Cielo Vista Walmart, the outpouring of support has been unprecedented.
More than $4,451,000 in donations have poured into local organizations collecting funds for the victims in the first six days after the Aug. 3 massacre. The nonprofits and foundations said they’ve kept their donation estimates conservative because funds continue to pour in, and some companies are pledging additional donation matches.
As of Friday afternoon, more than 12,700 individuals and companies had made donations, including several large gifts from corporations, credit unions and other groups, not to mention pledges from local funeral homes to absorb the complete cost of services for the victims.
Two organizations, the Paso Del Norte Foundation and El Paso Community Foundation, established funds for the victims in the hours after the shooting. But other organizations are also collecting money, including Project HOPE and the United Way of El Paso County.
“The response has been overwhelming,” said Tracy Yellen, CEO of the Paso Del Norte Foundation.
Tenet Healthcare, which owns The Hospitals of Providence, donated $100,000 to the El Paso Community Foundation and will match employee donations up to $50,000.
“This devastating event has caused an inconceivable amount of pain and grief for the entire El Paso community. We salute the efforts of the El Paso Community Foundation to provide support during this time of sadness and loss,” said Ron Rittenmeyer, executive chairman and CEO of Tenet, in a news release.
El Paso-based Helen of Troy donated $200,000 to the Paso Del Norte Foundation, and will also match employee donations to the fund through the end of August.
The Ysleta Del Sur Pueblo presented the Paso Del Norte Foundation with a $100,000 check last Monday. The Tiguas are also donating all revenue generated from the Clint Black concert at Speaking Rock on Aug. 15.
The United Way of El Paso County also created a fund for victims, called the El Paso Community Assistance Fund. The fund will focus on the long-term healing process for El Paso residents, while the other two funds will focus on short-term assistance.
A United Way news release said the fund would be used to “rebuild the resources and capacity of local partners offering services, including crisis counseling, emergency food and shelter, disaster response and other needs as they arise.”
There are also several other corporations and large businesses that have donated to the victim funds.
American Airlines donated $75,000 to the El Paso Community Foundation, and GECU created an El Paso Strong charitable account. The El Paso-based credit union says 100% of the proceeds will “help meet the needs of those impacted by the events” of Aug. 3.
Macy’s donated $20,000 to the PDN Foundation and enacted a giving campaign where store customers can round up their change and have it donated to the fund.
Albertsons also has a pin pad campaign in 200 stores across the Southwest where customers can donate while checking out in the grocery line, through Aug. 31.
“We think that’s an incredible, generous offer,” said Eric Pearson, president and CEO of the El Paso Community Foundation.
Pearson said Stephanie Karr of RMPersonnel will work with both foundations to coordinate the release of funds to the victims.
Some groups in El Paso are also establishing scholarship funds for families of the victims. Community en Acción, a nonprofit of El Paso Latino business leaders, has created a college scholarship fund for the minor children who lost relatives in the shooting.
There are also plenty of grassroots fundraising campaigns going on throughout the city. Several tattoo artists in El Paso created special designs for fundraisers on Friday. West Texas Tattoo, 820 N. Mesa, offered El Paso-themed, palm-sized tattoos for $60, with all proceeds going toward the victim funds.
It can be hard to begin combing through which donation sites are legit and which are scams. The FBI on Twitter warned individuals to be cautious of calls soliciting money or offering assistance, as they may be scams.
There are already some fake donation pages that have popped up. A fake Facebook page title Chuco Relic Store was directing people to buy an El Paso Strong shirt at a third-party website. But the real Chuco Relic called out the fake page, saying they are not local.
Yellen said she hasn’t seen too many instances of fraudulent fundraisers and that some smaller drives have reached out to the PDN Foundation to link up and provide more trust for the donor.
“We’re working to vet the ones that approach us,” Yellen said. “We’ve been warned that it’s prevalent and it happens, so we encourage donors to pick an organization that they know and trust to make sure resources go to the families.”
Donate online at payments.epcf.org/victims
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.