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Charities plan to distribute $2 million in aid for Colorado shooting victims

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Many local organizations say they have been inundated by calls from people around the country wanting to donate. But rather than collecting those contributions on their own, some charities, such as the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, have pointed donors to the GivingFirst.org Web site, the portal through which it has long accepted donations. So far, the nonprofit, which provides support for crime victims, has received $45,000 through GivingFirst, says Nancy Lewis, the victim group's executive director.

“It’s been overwhelming,” she says. “People have really opened up across the country to help the victims in any way they can.”

Her organization is setting up a committee to help disburse the donations to the shooting victims and their families. Apart from honoring requests from donors to give directly to specific victims, the group says it will use families’ financial needs as a criterion for distributing the money. Ms. Lewis estimates the process to take a full year. The timeframe and approach are similar to the organization’s response after the Columbine High School killings in 1999.

Other organizations that have faced similar floods of donations after a tragedy took a more cautious approach. The Denver Foundation initially told the public through its Web site that it was “currently examining opportunities to provide relief” and “will offer more information in the near future.” The organization then took action Tuesday night by urging donors to give to a “Critical Needs Fund” it has set up.

So far, a few thousand dollars have trickled in, says David Miller, the foundation’s president. There’s a possibility his organization will end up giving the money to the Community First Foundation. Mr. Miller, though, prefers to give the money to needs that aren’t particularly attractive to donors, such as paying utility bills or the salary of a receptionist for a local group like the Aurora Mental Health Center, whose counseling services have been in demand.

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