By Mitch Borden
A community fund set up for victims of the Aug. 31 Odessa shooting has reached over $1 million in donations.
How that money will be dispersed though has yet to be decided, but officials with Odessa’s Chamber of Commerce say that the money will be in the hands of those most affected by the shooting, which left seven people dead and over 20 others injured.
The Odessa Community Foundation — the nonprofit arm of the Odessa Chamber of Commerce — is overseeing the collection of donations and their distribution. The foundation has been used in the past for special events, like constructing Odessa’s Chris Kyle Memorial.
On the day of the Odessa shooting, officials with the chamber say the foundation immediately began preparing a fund to collect donations for victims of the shooting. Since then, the foundation has received money from individuals and companies across the country — Starbucks, Haliburton, along with local businesses have all donated to the fund so far.
When the fundraising started three months ago, Odessa Chamber of Commerce President Renee Earls said she didn’t expect to raise much. “You know, if we get $200,000 that will be remarkable,” she remembered thinking at the time.
Today the fund has reached $1,050,000.
The Odessa Community Foundation, or OCF, will continue to accept donations until the end of the year, but a task force is already in place to draft criteria for how the money will be dispersed to the families of the dead and those injured.
The families of the seven people who died in the shooting have been given an initial $10,000, while the injured have been given $5,000, according to Mara Barham, the chair of the task force.
Barham explained that at this point the task force is looking at distributing a lump sum to the estates of each victim who died. The amount that those injured will receive will be determined by a set of criteria still being formalized. Barham expects the amount will be determined by things like the length of hospitalization and the kind of care received.
El Paso officials, who are still reeling in the wake of a mass shooting that claimed the lives of 22 people, have reached out to OCF to help with this process of distributing funds to victims.
On Dec. 4, a town hall meeting will be held to unveil the finalized plan for how the fund will be distributed. The money given to victims will be classified as a “gift,” so each family and individual will have the freedom to spend the money on their most pressing needs.
“We feel like it is best for us to give these funds into the victim’s hands directly and let them best discern where they need to spend those dollars,” said Barham.
The task force said it expects funds will be distributed to victims by mid-January 2020. Along with the money raised by the Odessa Chamber of Commerce, the three hospitals in Midland and Odessa that initially treated shooting victims announced they’re waving victim medical expenses not covered by insurance
These fees amounted to over half a million dollars, according to hospital officials. The City of Odessa is also waving all emergency medical fees incurred by victims.