“This is going to make us stronger:” Fundraising for Kalamazoo

Posted at 6:24 PM, Feb 23, 2016

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – In a joint, regional fundraising effort, several major organizations in the Kalamazoo region believe this tragedy will make their community stronger.

As families move forward with many unanswered questions in the aftermath of the shootings in Kalamazoo, communities turn to each other for help. Meanwhile, crowd sourcing campaigns are raising thousands of dollars in hours for the victims’ families.

“I believe that this incident is going to make us stronger,” said Carrie Pickett-Erway, president and CEO of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

“It’s a tragedy that we’ve had an incident here in Kalamazoo County this weekend, and yet as a community we really need to come together and better understand how gun violence impacts the Kalamazoo region, and the individuals and families who live here.”

The Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Community Foundations, along with United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo region, spearheaded the Help Now fund. The organizations created a partnership with local groups to raise money for victims’ families, to organize vigils, and long-term counseling and community education.

“Violence has no boundaries,” said Mike Larson, president and CEO of United Way Kalamazoo and Battle Creek region.

“We need to look at this in a regional response versus a community response.”

As of Tuesday evening, at least seven GoFundMe campaigns are public, each dedicated to this tragedy. GoFundMe Media Director Kelsea Little says each account was still in the process of being vetted to ensure the money raised goes to the cause it’s meant to support. For now, the funding is on hold until the campaign is deemed legitimate.

"For these types of high profile events, we conduct an extra layer of diligence to ensure that all the campaigns are genuine,” said Little.

“Before the campaigns can withdraw any of the funds, we confirm the identity of the organizer, the connections to the beneficiary, and that the campaign clearly states how the funds will be used."

Both Larson and Pickett-Erway hope this kind of regional fundraising community response for Kalamazoo can serve as an outline for other communities to use to respond in the event of any future senseless violence.

“I do believe when communities come together to create funds that have resources, and also to create conversations, it first and foremost starts with better understanding what are the challenges that face us,” said Pickett-Erway.

If you would like to help, see a list of fundraising efforts for families of loved ones lost and the Kalamazoo community here.