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Attacks Prompt Record Charitable Donations - 2001-09-26

The terrorist attacks in New York and Washington have triggered the largest outpouring of charitable donations in U.S. history. Americans in big cities and small towns are responding to the crisis by donating money.

Firemen stand at intersections in rural communities collecting dollar bills from passing motorists to help the families of the New York City firemen killed in the attack.

At the other end of the economic scale, celebrity-backed concerts, theater productions, and movie benefits are raising millions.

The largest U.S. charitable groups say their coffers have never been so full. Spokesman Devorah Goldberg says the American Red Cross plans to donate $100 million, half the money they have collected thus far, directly to the families of the those killed in the attacks. "These families will receive a grant to help them with their mortgage and rent payments, funeral related expenses, transportation, things like that," Ms. Goldberg said. "Because it is such an unprecedented tragedy and so many people are without breadwinners in their households, the Red Cross decided to respond in a unique way to the families of the victims."

Wanting to do something to express their anger and despair, Devorah Goldberg says, Americans of all ages and economic backgrounds are giving. "Corporate America has been coming out to pledge $1 or $3 or $5 or $10 million," she said. "Kids are selling lemonade and then donating to the Red Cross. This group in Virginia wanted to help out, so they are encouraging kids to have 'wash away America,' to wash away the hurt car washes, of which the proceeds will be given to the Red Cross."

Twenty-six World Trade Center janitors died when the buildings collapsed and 1,800 became unemployed. Mike Fishman of the Service Employees Union, which represents the janitors says donations by both the union and the company will ease the unemployed workers' financial problems. "We reached an agreement that provides for six months of health care for everyone, six months of a supplemental unemployment benefit which will bring their take home pay almost to where it was when they were working," Mr. fishman said. "And finally, as jobs become opened, workers displaced by the attack will have first choice."

Mr. Fishman says the agreement was made possible by an outpouring of both money and good intentions on the part of those traditional adversaries, labor and management.

The most effective way to respond to a hateful and evil act, he says, is with kindness and compassion.