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Newtown inundated with gifts and money as world mourns

December 22, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Money, toys, food and other gifts are pouring in from around the world to Newtown, as residents continue to mourn the loss of those killed in the school shooting rampage.

The 20-year-old shooter, Adam Lanza, killed his mother before attacking Sandy Hook Elementary School then killing himself. Police don't know what set off the massacre. Twenty children, all 6 or 7 years old, and six adults were killed at the school.

Saturday, all of Newtown's children were called to the Edmond Town Hall to choose among the thousands of toys donated by individuals, organizations and toy stores. About 60,000 teddy bears were donated, said Ann Benoure, a social services caseworker who was working at the town hall.

"There's so much stuff coming in," Mahoney said. "To be honest, it's a bit overwhelming; you just want to close the doors and turn the phone off."

The basement of the town hall building resembled a toy store, with piles of stuffed animals, Barbie dolls, board games, soccer balls and other fun gifts. All the toys were inspected and examined by bomb-sniffing dogs before being sorted and put on card tables.

The United Way of Western Connecticut said the official fund for donations had $2.8 million in it as of Saturday evening. Others sent envelopes stuffed with cash to pay for coffee at the general store, and a shipment of cupcakes arrived from a gourmet bakery in Beverly Hills.

Peter Leone, owner of Newtown General Store, said the generous donations haven't stopped coming in. Leone was busy making deli sandwiches and working the register when he received a phone call from a woman in Alaska.

"She said, 'I'm paying for the next $500 of food that goes out your door,"' Leone said. "About a half hour later another gentleman called, I think from the West Coast, and he did the same thing for $2,000."

The funerals for the victims wrapped up after a week of farewells in Newtown. Services were held Saturday in Connecticut for Josephine Gay, 7, and Ana Marquez-Greene, 6. A service was also held in Utah for 6-year-old Emilie Parker.

See the complete list of victims' names released by Connecticut police

Makeshift memorials of flowers, candles and stuffed animals have popped up all over town. Other funds aside from the official account have also been set up, drawing thousands of dollars.

Former Sandy Hook student Ryan Kraft, who once baby-sat Lanza, set up a fund with other alumni that has collected almost $150,000.

Rabbi Shaul Praver of Congregation Adath Israel is also raising money for a memorial to the victims. He said one man wrote a check for $52,000 for the project.

The University of Connecticut is one of several colleges that have set up scholarship funds to pay for the educations of students at Sandy Hook.

Across the nation, volunteers in Chino Hills, Calif. held a fundraiser titled "Fill the Backpack" Saturday which raised $9,000 for the families of the Newtown victims.

Town officials have not decided yet what to do with all the money. A board of Newtown community leaders is being established to determine how it is most needed and will be best utilized, said Isabel Almeida with the local United Way, which has waived all its administrative fees related to the fund.

Almeida said some have wondered about building a new school for Sandy Hook students if the town decides to tear the school down, but that decision has not been made.

As the town became inundated with gifts, Almeida also encouraged people to donate to others in memory of the Sandy Hook victims.

"Send those teddy bears to a school in your community or an organization that serves low-income children, who are in need this holiday season, and do it in memory of our children," she said.

The U.S. Postal Service reported a six-fold increase in mail after creating an outlet for people wanting to send letters and care packages. One card arrived from Georgia addressed to "The families of 6 amazing women and 20 beloved angels." Anyone wishing to send condolences can do so to P.O. Box 3700, Newtown, CT 06470

To make a contribution to the Newtown Memorial Fund please visit: www.newtownmemorialfund.org


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