The generosity of donors to the Gilroy Foundation for victims of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting continues, soaring past $1.3 million more than a month after the tragedy.
The pace and quantity of donations have slowed somewhat, but foundation staff and volunteers—some of them working virtually non stop for a month—admit they are overwhelmed. The unexpected outpouring of money has strained the foundation’s own finances.
“When I say we are overwhelmed by the generosity of people, we mean just that,” said Donna Pray, foundation executive director.
The foundation is committed to allocating 100 percent of designated festival-shooting donations to the victims’ fund, and it is devoting nearly all of its resources to processing and disbursing the funds. It had to cancel its annual “A Day in the Country” fundraiser—its primary source of operating funds—because of the focus on the shooting victims.
“We needed to dip into our reserves to survive,” said Pray. The foundation’s lone full time staff member, she stressed she wasn’t complaining, just stating the harsh realities her small community foundation faces.
“Our focus needs to be on victim relief efforts and helping this community heal,” she wrote in a letter sent Aug. 14 to foundation supporters. The letter resulted in substantial donations to shore up the organization’s operating funds, she said.
Some efforts this month are being diverted so the foundation can process 82 college scholarships for Gilroy students that had been approved earlier this year.
Pray stressed that volunteers, some from its group of 45 ‘ambassadors’ and others from community members, have donated many hours processing the victims’ fund donations.
Volunteers have researched, written and mailed more than 1,000 thank-you letters to donors and sponsors of fundraisers for the festival victims. Hundreds of businesses have hosted special fundraisers or donated portions of their sales to the fund. These events are continuing, with a fundraiser set for Sept. 7 at the Gilroy Elks Lodge.
More than $1 million was donated in the first two weeks after the July 28 shooting. Contributions since then represent about one-third of that amount. Pray said she expects the pace of donations to continue until the end of 2019.
She said donations have arrived from all across the U.S., and around the world, including Sweden and several African nations.
“People come in all day long,” said Pray. “A lady came in this morning (Aug. 30), and said, ‘We had some friends over and we raised over $3,070.’ ”
“One morning, we received 336 emails with payments from PayPal.”
Anonymous checks arrive from stock funds.
“We’re still depositing every day,” she said. On April 29, the deposit was $50,000, including $27,000 in cash.
The foundation executive stressed that careful accounting of deposits and disbursements is a critical part of the foundation’s responsibilities. “We are taking very good care of this,” she said.
An oversight committee reviews each application for aid at twice-weekly meetings. To date, all applications received have been approved.
Applications for assistance have been on the Gilroy Foundation website since Aug. 12 and are due by Jan. 31, 2020.
With the help of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Gilroy Foundation had to develop new protocols and processes for distributing the funds to the victims.
Pray said that as of Aug. 30, 25 applications for assistance had been submitted and that all had been approved, and money has been distributed. For more information, visit gilroyfoundation.org