UK & World News
Newtown Struggles As Donations Keep Pouring In
The Connecticut town where a mass shooting claimed over 20 lives last month has set up a task force to handle the truckloads of gifts that continue to pour in from well-wishers around the world.
Newtown's tax assessor, Chris Kelsey, has taken on the task of organising a warehouse to hold the toys, school supplies, letters and other items donated after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Gunman Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six staff members in a shooting rampage on December 14. He also killed his mother before taking his own life at the school.
Despite pleas for people to stop sending gifts, Mr Kelsey said trucks still arrive daily with tokens of support, some for the families of those killed and others for the children of Sandy Hook or the town itself.
"A lot of the town's normal business is still on pause," he said. "I have a couple of people still doing assessor's business, and then if they can, open mail a couple hours too. We're all kind of doing what we can to get this done."
More than 800 people have volunteered to open mail, reply to emails and sort through the donations - which includes a pile of tens of thousands of teddy bears reaching to the warehouse's ceiling.
"It's a ton of stuff," Mr Kelsey said.
There are also 26 large moving boxes in the warehouse, each labelled with a victim's name. When a gift comes in addressed to a specific family, it goes in the designated box.
A toy giveaway was held for all Newtown children before Christmas and some of the remaining toys and stuffed animals have been taken to children's hospitals.
The rest will be stored until the town decides where they should go, Mr Kelsey said. Victims' families can choose charities that will take priority.
The work of organising the warehouse is being done by volunteers from Adventist Community Services, a group that has done similar work after hurricanes and other natural disasters.
"Our thing is warehouses," said the Reverend William Warcholik, a Rhode Island pastor. "Our specialty is collecting, organising and distributing donated goods."
Newtown originally expected it would take the task force about two weeks to complete its work. Task force organisers Kevin and Robin Fitzgerald said the estimate is now closer to three months.
"What we're telling people on the phone now is that if you are holding a fundraiser in your local community, we appreciate it, but direct those resources to your local community, that's what the families want," Robin Fitzgerald said.