Yarnell Hill Fire donations top $15M after a year - CBS 5 - KPHO

5 INVESTIGATES

Yarnell Hill Fire donations top $15M after a year

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Sharon Knutson-Felix, who heads up the 100 Club of Arizona, said the agency has disbursed about $3.5 million in donations to those who lost loved ones in the Yarnell Hill Fire a year ago. (Source: CBS 5 News) Sharon Knutson-Felix, who heads up the 100 Club of Arizona, said the agency has disbursed about $3.5 million in donations to those who lost loved ones in the Yarnell Hill Fire a year ago. (Source: CBS 5 News)
'I think people want to give their money where they think it will make the biggest impact, and I think that's why it's important for them to know what we've done,' Knutson-Felix said. (Source: CBS 5 News) 'I think people want to give their money where they think it will make the biggest impact, and I think that's why it's important for them to know what we've done,' Knutson-Felix said. (Source: CBS 5 News)
From concerts to carwashes, special brews and honorary bike rides, the outpouring of monetary support came from the thousands of sources. (Source: CBS 5 News) From concerts to carwashes, special brews and honorary bike rides, the outpouring of monetary support came from the thousands of sources. (Source: CBS 5 News)
'I can only say that it's magical,' said Scott McKee, who lost his only child, Grant McKee, in the fire. 'It's revitalized my belief in humanity.' (Source: CBS 5 News) 'I can only say that it's magical,' said Scott McKee, who lost his only child, Grant McKee, in the fire. 'It's revitalized my belief in humanity.' (Source: CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The Yarnell Hill Fire tragedy triggered a tidal wave of donations and more than $15 million poured in.

CBS 5 Investigates reached out to seven of the largest organizations which collected money after the deadly fire, most of it for the families of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots who died June 30, 2013.

"I think people want to give their money where they think it will make the biggest impact, and I think that's why it's important for them to know what we've done," said Sharon Knutson-Felix, who heads up the 100 Club of Arizona.

The agency helps families of public safety officers and firefighters who are hurt or killed in the line of duty. It received $4.6 million and sent out about 20,000 receipts to donors. 

"When something of this magnitude happens, it was the policy and procedures and the way the 100 Club was set up and structured that actually helped us really shine as a nonprofit during a most difficult time in our state," Knutson-Felix said.

To date, $3.5 million has been spent on meeting the needs of those who lost their loved ones in the fire. The remaining funds will help the organization continue that mission.

"We've helped a couple move. We've helped some purchase homes. We've helped some of them pay debts off. We've provided health insurance," Knutson-Felix said.

Here's a breakdown of what the 100 Club of Arizona has spent from its Granite Mountain Hotshots Survivor Fund as of June 14, 2014.

  • $322,500, survivor benefits
  • $497,262, living expenses and support services
  • $47,024, medical and health insurance
  • $1,846,677, home/vehicle/debt elimination
  • $675,740, funeral, memorials, memorial services/travel and lodging
  • $103,528, counseling

Juliann Ashcraft, who lost her husband, Andrew, in the Yarnell Hill fire, shared her feelings about the donations with CBS 5 Investigates.

"I can't even begin to express my gratitude for that because our family has been operating on the kind acts of others. Really, I feel extremely blessed," Ashcraft said.

From concerts to carwashes, special brews and honorary bike rides, the outpouring of support came from the thousands touched by the tragedy who reached out in the only way they could to help the families of the fallen.

"I can only say that it's magical," said Scott McKee, who lost his only child, Grant McKee, in the fire. "It's revitalized my belief in humanity."

The Prescott Firefighters Charities and United Phoenix Fire Fighters Association combined their efforts and collected a staggering $8.5 million. Last December, they cut lump sum checks to the legal next of kin for each of the 19 fallen Hotshots.

"You could give them a $100 million. None of it will replace their loved ones," Ray Maione with Prescott Firefighters Charities told CBS 5 Investigates.

Like the 100 Club, Maione said none of the donations were used for administrative costs, not even stamps and envelopes. The lawyers and investment advisers worked for free.

"Every dime that came in to these two charities were directly given to the families," Maione said.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation, based in Idaho, didn't give CBS 5 Investigates exact numbers, but it also took in hundreds of thousands of dollars after the tragedy.

"Obviously, it was unlike any other year that we've been through," Director Burk Minor said. 

Minor said $230,000 was specifically earmarked for the Yarnell 19, which the organization turned over to the combined Prescott/Phoenix firefighter fund last September.

The rest of the money went to the foundation's other fundraising campaigns.

"Obviously they were up a little bit, just because of the exposure Yarnell got. But our in-house campaigns have always been very steady and they still are currently this year," Minor said.

CBS 5 Investigates also contacted four other organizations which received donations after the tragedy and asked how much money was spent, how much had been disbursed, how it was disbursed and how much of the donations was spent on administrative costs.

Here are the answers to those questions:

 American Red Cross

  • Raised - $322,000
  • Disbursed (or committed to spend) - $725,000
  • The money was spent on 300 overnight stays in shelters, 60,000 meals and snacks, handing out 40,000 relief items and providing relief services. Five hundred Red Cross volunteers responded.
  • Nine cents of every dollar was used for administrative costs.

Source: Trudy Thompson Rice, American Red Cross

United Way of Yavapai County

  • Raised - $512,594
  • Disbursed - $470,122
  • The money went to program support, direct payments to families of the Fallen 19 and to residents damaged by the fire or organizations who represent them
  • Zero dollars were spent on administrative costs

Source: Yvonne Bartlett, United Way of Yavapai County

 Yavapai College Foundation (Granite Mountain Hotshots Scholarship Fund)

  • Raised - $253,800
  • Disbursed - $0
  • Money will be disbursed as the surviving children of the Granite Mountain Hotshots reach college age.
  • (The funds are also available to spouses, significant others and the lone Granite Mountain Hotshot survivor.)
  • None of the donations were spent on administrative costs.

Source: Paul Kirchgraber, Yavapai College Foundation

Yavapai Community Foundation (affiliate of Arizona Community Foundation)

  • Raised - $1.2 million in two separate funds. ($750,000 Yarnell Disaster Relief Fund, $488,000 Yarnell Memorial Scholarship Endowment)
  • Disbursed - $410,000 from Yarnell Disaster Relief Fund to Yarnell Recovery Group
  • Money spent rebuilding 10 uninsured homes, Yarnell and Peeples Valley fire departments for damaged equipment, local water association for needed repairs and nonprofits that provided emergency services (a church, a library and a community center).
  • Money from the Yarnell Memorial Scholarship Endowment has not been disbursed. The goal is to grow it to $1 million over time until the eldest of the children of the Granite Mountain Hotshots is college-ready.
  • None of the money raised has been spent on administrative costs.

Source: Megan Brownell/Arizona Community Foundation

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