Officials of a foundation holding $10 million in funds donated for the benefit of Oklahoma City bombing survivors say they believe divvying up the money among survivors would be a huge blunder.
“No. 1, I do not think it would be legal. No. 2, I do not think it would be in the best interest of the people,” said Nancy Anthony, president of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation, which oversees the Disaster Relief Fund, commonly known as the bombing fund.
For the past 17 years, the bombing fund has been providing assistance for medical expenses, mental health counseling, living expenses and postsecondary education costs for survivors and family members of individuals killed or critically injured in the April 19, 1995, bombing.
The explosion resulted in 168 deaths and injured hundreds more.
More than $40 million in donations flooded into various Oklahoma organizations after the disaster. Much of the money was quickly spent, but about $14.6 million eventually was consolidated into the Oklahoma City Community Foundation to provide for the long-term needs of bombing survivors.
The foundation since has distributed about $11.1 million for the benefit of 962 individuals through 16,256 transactions, but still has about $10 million in bombing funds because of interest earned on investments. The Red Cross of Central Oklahoma also has about $2 million in bombing donations still available.
Call for distribution
Controversy has erupted recently among survivors, some of whom have been calling for the foundation to distribute its $10 million in remaining bombing funds.
Even if it legally could be done, Anthony said deciding how to divide up the money would be a nightmare that would create bitter feelings among survivors with different perspectives about who should receive the most compensation.
Survivors are far from united on the issue.
Deloris Watson, whose grandson, P.J. Allen, was the youngest survivor of the day care, believes it is time to divvy up the money and dissolve the bombing fund.
Watson said the foundation has provided her family with a lot of financial assistance through the bombing fund, but she believes the survivors, themselves, are in better position to determine how money should be spent.
Jim Denny, 67, whose son, Brandon, and daughter, Rebecca, were severely injured in the bombing, said he is deeply appreciative of the way the bombing fund has been administered and would like it to keep operating in the same manner.
“We have had occasion to ask for help on some dental work and different things for our children,” he said. “They never disapproved a thing.”
“They've really gone the extra mile,” he said. “I think the Oklahoma City Community Foundation is five-star, absolutely, top to bottom.”
Pressure to dissolve the fund through cash payouts has come recently from some bombing survivors. They claim fund administrators have denied some financial requests for surgeries, education and other legitimate needs even though $10 million is available.
Adding fuel to the controversy is a February memo that Anthony and two colleagues wrote to foundation and fund trustees recommending that $4.4 million of investment earnings from bombing funds be set aside for purposes that would not directly benefit survivors.
The memo recommends establishing a $2 million endowment to train community people on how to respond to future disasters and establishing $1.5 million endowment that would provide annual earnings to the Oklahoma City National Memorial for survivor support and activities.
At a glance
The bombing fund and the foundation