Home Sept. 11, 2001 Sept. 11 Charities on Decline

Sept. 11 Charities on Decline

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The outpouring of charity that followed the Sept. 11 terrorism attacks has begun to run its course. Of the 33 New Jersey-based private charities established in the aftermath of the attacks, only 14 are still around, according to Internal Revenue Service records. The majority are either paying the education costs of victims’ children or giving out scholarships in honor of someone who died that day.

A few are altering their mission statements so they can support other causes, such as Iraq war veterans or emergency and construction workers who immediately responded to the World Trade Center site.

Most of the Sept. 11 charities that have closed spent their money in the first few years after the attacks to support survivors and victims’ families.

The demand for their services diminished significantly once the federally funded September 11th Victim Compensation Fund began distributing the $7 billion Congress allocated to it, a process completed by early 2005.

“We gave out $425,000 this past year to kids of parents who died,” said George Maio of Park Ridge, trustee of the Joseph D. Maio Scholarship Fund, named for his son an employee at Cantor Fitzgerald, the financial firm that lost more than 600 people on 9/ 11. “We put $25,000 each into a scholarship fund account.”

But Maio said he also has distributed some of the fund’s assets to other charities, such as the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. He’s unsure about whether to continue operating the charity.

“I had golf outings every year to raise money, but the last one was in ’04 or ’05,” Maio said. The fund’s trustees have discussed giving its remaining $100,000 to charities that help veterans of the Iraq war.

Four of the largest charities plan to spend their remaining cash on scholarships or trust-fund payments to victims’ children.

“Our goal is to run out of money on the last kid,” said Craig Cummings, founder of the 9/11 Fund for the Education of Monmouth County Children in Rumson. The organization held its last fund- raising event in 2004 because “interest from the community was dwindling,” Cummings said. With $500,000 in assets, the group helps pay the post-high school education costs of children from Monmouth or Ocean counties whose parents were victims of terrorism.

The group will pay for 21 scholarships this year and estimates it will fund another 200 over the next 20 years, said Cummings, a Cantor Fitzgerald employee who was away from the firm’s Twin Towers offices at a golf outing on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Port Authority Police World Trade Disaster Survivors’ Fund in Englewood Cliffs supports the children of the officers killed and seriously injured on 9/11. John McAusland, general counsel to Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, said about $65,000 has been put in a trust fund for each child. As the children turn 25, they receive a check with the initial money, plus interest.

The Foundation for Alger Families in Jersey City, with about $1.5 million in assets, paid out more than $200,000 last year to help underwrite the education expenses of eight families of employees of Fred Alger Management, which lost 35 employees.

Other charities also are looking at the possibility of changing their missions.

The Jim Fassel Foundation in Fairfield, established by the former New York Giants coach, has $1 million in assets and gave out $60,000 last year to three charities working with victims’ families and survivors. But Gerard Papetti, its treasurer, acknowledged that finding worthy recipients will become more difficult over time.

“At our last board meeting, the question was raised of looking at expanding our mission, possibly to include military related charities particularly related to the Iraq war,” he said.

Papetti said the foundation also is looking for ways to help the emergency workers who were exposed to toxic chemicals when they reported to Ground Zero. That group has received scant attention from both the federal government and the charitable world.

“We’re doing research on how we can best spend $25,000 to deal with the health issues of the responders,” he said. “It’s a problem that we know $25,000 is not going to handle, but we wanted to help.”

He added that the foundation is considering giving the money to two charities that have made helping 9/11 workers a top concern: Families of September 11 in New York and an organization being set up by former New York Giants player George Martin, who says he will walk across the country to raise funds to help first responders.

“It’s an issue we think is worth focusing on right now,” Papetti said.

The Sandler O’Neill Assistance Foundation in Chatham had $11.4 million in assets as of 2005, set aside to pay the tuition and other expenses for the families of the 68 employees of the financial firm who perished, according to its tax return. Officials did not return phone calls.

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