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How to help victims’ families, first-responders and Uvalde community after school shooting

Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(UVALDE, Texas) — Americans have turned their attention to Uvalde, Texas, after the devastating shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 children and two adults dead on Tuesday.

The mass shooting marked the second-deadliest school shooting in recent U.S. history behind the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut that left 26 victims dead.

As onlookers search for ways to get involved and help those affected, local and national efforts are in place to support the victims, families and others coping with the trauma of yet another mass shooting in this country.

Blood Drives

Even for people not in the immediate local area, organizations like the South Texas Blood and Tissue Center are able to connect blood donors with those in need at local Uvalde hospitals.

“Thanks to generous blood donors, we were able to send 15 units of blood to Uvalde via helicopter to be available at the site of the shooting and at the area hospitals,” the organization announced Wednesday morning. “Later this afternoon, we received a request and sent an additional 10 units of blood to a hospital in Uvalde.”

The critical need comes on the heels of a months-long blood supply shortage.

With the center’s supply is running low, the organization said, “This tragedy highlights the importance of always having blood available on the shelf and before it’s needed.”

An emergency blood drive was scheduled for Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time at the Herby Ham Activity Center in Uvalde. As of time of publication, all appointments were booked through Saturday but the center stressed that help would still be needed and encouraged people to reserve appointments through Memorial Day.

Verified Fundraisers

Online and virtual donations are highly-visible, immediate ways to financially support victims’ families, first responders and local communities impacted by mass shootings, but it’s vital to ensure the source is trusted, vetted and honestly managing funds.

According to the school’s website, First State Bank of Uvalde has set up a memorial fund account for the victims of Tuesday’s shooting. Those looking to donate may contribute funds at any First State Bank branch or mail checks to P.O. Box 1908, Uvalde, TX, 78802, with checks payable to the Robb School Memorial Fund.

Donors may also contribute using Zelle by sending payments to robbschoolmemorialfund@gmail.com.

VictimsFirst is a nonprofit network of families of the deceased and survivors from the last two decades of mass shootings. It originated in 2012 to protect victims, educate communities and fund first responders and victims.

The VictimsFirst fund created in the wake of the Uvalde tragedy is supported by the National Compassion Fund in partnership with GoFundMe and the San Antonio Area Foundation. The National Compassion Fund is a subsidiary of the National Center for Victims of Crime, and states on its website that it collects donations and is in charge of forming a “local Steering Committee to determine eligibility and distribution of funds.”

Anita Busch, president of VictimsFirst and co-founder of the National Compassion Fund, whose own family has suffered through two mass shootings — the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, and the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting — helped create a new model for charitable giving to ensure that 100% of donations collected for victims of mass casualty crime actually go directly to the victims.

“For Uvalde, we’ll continue to collect and set it up very similar to El Paso,” she told ABC News, referencing the group’s work after the 2019 Walmart shooting. “The National Compassion Fund will also be administering those funds. We will make sure that it’s a separate bank account, that everything is transparent and once we’re satisfied as victims of previous mass shootings, we’ll go ahead and put the funds into the NCF.”

“We’re very transparent about what we collect and if there’s any question [about what someone gives], we ask and get that in writing — put that in the correct bank accounts and go from there,” she said. “We are so grateful that public intent will be very transparent.”

Busch added that donors could “give to the victims or you can give to the community or both, just as we did in Buffalo,” referring to the May 14 mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets grocery store in Buffalo, New York, that left 10 people dead.

Busch also serves as a Mass Violence Relief Specialist and adviser to the National Compassion Fund, and has personally helped victims, survivors and communities behind the scenes in more than 30 mass casualty crimes.​

There are also two Uvalde area funeral homes that posted on social media about covering the cost of services for families of the shooting victims.

“For over 60 years, we have supported Uvalde and beyond,” Rushing-Estes Mortuary Uvalde wrote in a Facebook post. “Today, our resolve is stronger than ever. We are here for the people of Uvalde and our professionals are currently at Robb Elementary assisting law enforcement. As the situation develops and we have the opportunity to assist our community, not one family will be charged for our services.”

Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home also said in a Facebook post that it would handle any services for victims free of charge.

“We have fought together as a community and we will pull together as one now in our time of need,” the post read. “Hillcrest will be assisting families with NO COST for funerals for all involved in today’s horrific events. Prayer for our small amazing town.”

Grief Counseling

There are also resources available for people not in the immediate Uvalde area who may be caring for others coping with anxiety and residual trauma, or who may be affected themselves.

The National Disaster Distress Helpline, a year-round disaster crisis counseling hotline, is available to anyone in the U.S. experiencing distress or other mental health concerns related to recent mass shootings.

The free, confidential services are available 24/7 and offered in over 100 languages, including Spanish and American Sign Language (ASL) for those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“It is common to feel distress before, during, and after a disaster. Emotional distress is second only to death and injury in terms of the toll disasters take within impacted communities,” the organization said in a press release. “Most distress symptoms are temporary, but for some individuals and families these symptoms may last for weeks or months after a natural or human-caused disaster, including incidents of mass violence.”

Anyone experiencing distress or other mental health concerns related to disaster can call or text 1-800-985-5990 to connect with a trained counselor. Spanish-speakers can call or text the hotline and press “2” for 24/7 bilingual support.

Deaf or hard of hearing American Sign Language users experiencing disaster distress can contact the hotline by dialing 1-800-985-5990 through a direct videophone option via any videophone-enabled device, or by selecting the “ASL Now” option on the hotline’s website at disasterdistress.samhsa.gov. Videophone calls are answered 24/7 by trained crisis workers fluent in ASL from the hotline’s crisis center partner DeafLEAD.

The National Disaster Distress Helpline also has Online Peer Support Communities for survivors of mass violence in the U.S.

Victims’ loved ones and emergency responders with experience from mass violence can connect with one another in a private, moderated Facebook group to offer or receive emotional support in the aftermath of a mass shooting. This can include methods to cope, memorial dates, self-care strategies and support through daily living challenges.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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