Colorado shooting victims’ fund criticized
The friends and families of the victims in the Aurora, Colo., movie theater shooting have gone public with their displeasure in how the Community First Foundation is distributing donations from a relief fund.
Founded in 1977 as the Lutheran Medical Center Foundation, the charitable group initially served as the fundraising arm for the hospital in the Denver suburb of Wheat Ridge and is now one of the sponsors of the hospital’s parent system, Denver-based Exempla Healthcare.
Community First CEO Marla Williams told Outliers the charity will meet with victims’ families to listen to their recommendations. She said part of the problem was miscommunication. Community First lacks a complete list of victims thanks to a court-imposed gag order, she said. A more complete list was only recently made available.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper chose Community First to oversee the Aurora Victims Relief Fund, which has brought in more than $5 million in donations since the July 20 shooting, when a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58.
Family and friends representing the victims staged a news conference last week alleging Community First did not properly distribute donations. They claimed Community First did not consult with them, the money wasn’t given to causes to benefit the victims and the charity misled donors. The group also wants to have a say in where the money lands.
The governor’s office has since said Hickenlooper will soon address those concerns, and told the Denver Post he was “heartsick” over the families’ concerns. He vowed that his office would take a more active role.
Exempla Healthcare doesn’t have any governance over Community, an Exempla spokeswoman said, and hasn’t been involved in any of the fundraising efforts, she said.
Williams added that Community First appoints five members of the 10-member Exempla board. Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth Health System, Exempla’s parent, appoints the remaining five members.