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Mayor's tornado relief fund gets quick response from residents

Date: 6/14/2011

june 15, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

WEST SPRINGFIELD — From June 6 through the morning of June 10, town residents donated more than $4,000 to the tornado relief fund established by Mayor Edward Gibson and town Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Sharon Wilcox.

"We're going to keep it open as long as there's still a need and interest and donations [are] coming in," Park and Recreation Department Director Victoria Connor, whose office is overseeing the collection, told Reminder Publications.

Connor said the idea for establishing the tornado relief fund came from volunteers her department recruited to assist the Health Department during the initial days following the June 1 tornado, which severely damaged the Merrick section of West Springfield.

"A lot of the people were talking about wanting to donate [money] and questioning how to keep it in West Springfield," Connor said.

As her office collects funds for an initiative called Operation Santa every holiday season, she said it "made sense, with the mayor's help and the CFO's help, [for Park and Recreation] to collect the money" to establish the tornado relief fund.

She said the money is being placed in a municipal trust that can be used only for tornado relief.

"It doesn't go into the general fund. It can't be taken for other needs," she added.

Connor said establishing this relief fund is not intended to down play the work done by the Red Cross and other relief agencies, all of which have played such a vital role in helping tornado-ravaged residents sine June 1.

"It's just an additional choice — another venue" where individuals can choose to donate for tornado victims, Connor said.

West Springfield CFO Sharon Wilcox said disbursements from the fund would be made at the discretion of a committee that will most likely include both Gibson and Connor.

"We aren't quite sure what the needs of the community are going to be yet," Wilcox said. "[This fund] was established because people wanted to do something for the people of West Springfield. As we move forward we will determine how the money is going to be used or spent" to assist the tornado victims.

Individuals interested in donating can stop by the Park and Recreation Department Office in the Municipal Building at 26 Center St. They can also download a donation form from the town Web site,, and click on the red tornado information banner on the top of the page. The donation form is located under the "how to donate' section.

Debbie Gardner can be reached by e-mail at

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