November 5, 2012
Nonprofit notebook

Banks leading the way in post-Sandy donations

The devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy has touched a nerve with large donors.

Within two days of the storm pummeling much of the nation's East Coast with severe winds and torrential flooding, the American Red Cross had already received an estimated $11.44 million. That exceeds the $8 million given over the entire recovery period for Hurricane Isaac, which struck the Gulf Coast earlier this year.

The pace started out slow in the days before Sandy hit, while the nonprofit was making storm preparations. But contributions quickly picked up when images of the devastation began flashing on the news and giving has increased dramatically ever since, said Neal Litvack, chief development officer at the Red Cross.

"This is the biggest and most significant outpouring of any U.S. disaster in the last six years," said Litvack.

The contributions so far also are "comparable" to donations the agency received in the first days following international disasters, including the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan last year and the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010. After those events, the Red Cross raised about $302 million in total for Japan, and $475 million for Haiti relief.

Of the $11.4 million in donations, $4.8 million has come from major gifts of $25,000 or more — typically from wealthy individuals or large corporations. Another $6.6 million was made up of smaller gifts donated online or via text message from individuals. Snail mail donations weren't included in the tally because they haven't been processed yet.

Among the corporations stepping up, Bank of America announced a $1 million donation — half of which will go to the Red Cross, the rest to local nonprofits that are assisting with recovery efforts in affected states.

Wells Fargo is donating $1 million to the Red Cross and local relief organizations, and encouraging customers to make Red Cross donations using its ATM machines.

TD Bank said it will donate $500,000 to the Red Cross.

Locally, Webster Bank has made a $10,000 donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. Led by the American Red Cross in Connecticut and Rhode Island Region, this donation with help the Red Cross supply food, shelter and basic services to storm victims across Webster's four-state footprint, the bank said.

The Red Cross also received a $50,000 donation from RadioShack, while retailer Ebay, Amazon and Apple set up ways for customers to donate via their websites, said Litvack.

Other national organizations contributing to relief efforts include the Salvation Army and Stamford-based AmeriCares, as well as many local nonprofit agencies.

The Red Cross's Litvack just hopes the giving momentum continues beyond the initial jump.

"Typically within the first four or five days we get a really tremendous response in disasters like this — people see images on TV, it touches their hearts and they want to help and sometimes giving is the best way they can help," he said. "But my gut tells me this will only cover a portion of the costs, so we'll need to continue to reach out to donors."

Blake Ellis at CNNMoney contributed to this report.

Grant targets library renovations

The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded $300,000 to the University of St. Joseph to support improvements to the Pope Pius XII Library on the university's main campus in West Hartford. The renovation project is under way and will continue throughout 2013.

Originally built in 1960, the Library was last updated in 1991 when renovations to the main reference room were completed.

"The scope of our current renovations will encompass improved individual and group study experiences; infrastructure updates including the installation of a new elevator; and a redesigned lobby to greet visitors and streamline circulation services," said Linda Geffner, associate professor and library director.

"Our goal is to welcome the Greater Hartford community to the diverse resources available, which includes increasing the number of computers available for use by the public," said Geffner.

A highlight of the renovations will be the relocation of the university's Center for Academic Excellence to the library's second floor. This will allow for a more effective relationship between the CAE and the Library's reference services and materials, as well as provide increased space for a new program to improve the college readiness of local high school students.

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Hospital wishes granted

The Rockville General Hospital Auxiliary has granted "wishes" to 18 hospital departments, including Woodlake at Tolland Nursing & Rehabilitation Center. The total amount gifted was $49,225.

The Auxiliary's donation will make possible the purchase of small medical equipment, office equipment, and other needed items. Funds were raised through annual membership dues and proceeds from the auxiliary's two gift shops (RGH & Woodlake) and fundraisers, including the Bountiful Baskets & Teacup Raffle, bake sale, trips, and Light of Life tree lighting ceremony and community carol sing, which is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. in front of the hospital.

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