A year ago, in February 2016, our region was sent reeling by an unthinkable tragedy.
The shock waves of a mass shooting tore through Kalamazoo on the night of Feb. 20, 2016, when a gunman killed six people and wounded two in multiple locations across the county, with victims from both Kalamazoo and Battle Creek.
The communities responded with a spirit of hope and healing to embrace families, survivors, witnesses and others affected by the shootings.
One of the ways in which they have done so is through the Help Now! Fund, a collaborative effort by United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, the Battle Creek Community Foundation and the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. The fund, which has raised more than $245,000 to date, was established in direct response to the tragedy with goals of addressing both immediate and long-term needs related to community violence.
"What was great about it is that we were able to come together to mobilize and leverage resources and support for victims, families and really for the community as a whole," United Way Interim CEO Chris Sargent said.
As the region acknowledges the one-year anniversary of the shootings, the team remains committed and actively engaged in meeting the needs of individuals and communities affected.
Funds raised continue to be directed toward the following focus areas:
- Special financial needs of the victims and their families;
- Community counseling, healing and safety services that address the aftermath of violence;
- Community vigils and anti-violence education events and activities; and
- Citizen safety planning and violence preparedness efforts.
Donors were given the option to designate their gift directly to those affected or toward community solutions. More than $84,000, for example, has been dispersed as designated specifically to the victims and their families for a variety of needs.
"We created the opportunity and facilitated an abililty to give," Sargent said. "The generosity that came from that was significant and pretty special."
While many immediate needs have been addressed, the work is far from over. The Help Now! team continues to partner with agencies and organizations in addressing long-term solutions to community violence, and has broader community initiatives in the works.
Click here to learn more about the fund