In Memory Of

Out of horror has come a lot of good

It was exactly three weeks before the shootings, on a typical Saturday in Tucson, when the phone at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona rang.

Gabrielle Giffords' office ran an annual food drive, and the congresswoman was calling to say she wanted to come by and drop off the goods.

"Down came Gabby and her entourage, with a truck all loaded with food," recalls Bill Carnegie, CEO of the Food Bank. "Typically, when a member of Congress or an elected official visits an organization, they might be here for 10 or 15 minutes, and then they run off to their next event. Well, Gabby spent about two hours here on Dec. 18. She had her picture taken with staff and volunteers; she helped sort food. We just had a wonderful interaction with her."

During the first week of January, photos of Giffords with the staff and volunteers arrived in the mail.

"I look at it every day," Carnegie says of one of the photos, which he had framed; it now hangs above his desk. "It's just kind of a reminder that we're here for bigger reasons."

After the Jan. 8 shootings, Tucsonans—as well as people across the nation and around the world—were looking for ways to help. Giffords' husband, Mark Kelly, suggested giving to two of Giffords' favorite causes—the American Red Cross and the Community Food Bank.

To handle the flood of funds suddenly coming in, the Food Bank created the Rep. Gabrielle Giffords Hunger Action Fund. Roughly $215,000 from that fund went into building and launching the new Gabrielle Giffords Family Assistance Center—a one-stop shop for referrals for eyeglasses, dental care, prescription drugs and other help that people may need.

Since building the center, requests for those services are up about 50 percent, and the Food Bank hopes to soon expand the center to help all of Southern Arizona. But need for all of the services offered by the Food Bank is increasing. In October, the Food Bank helped more than 240,000 people in Southern Arizona, compared with about 98,000 in the same month four years ago.

Carnegie is also the board chairman of the Tucson Together Fund, which has raised about a half-million dollars, and has already paid out about $200,000 to help the Jan. 8 shooting victims and their families with immediate needs and long-term help.

The Tucson Together Fund considers requests for such things as flying family members to town, covering costs for child counseling, and even thank-you cards.

"There are just so many needs beyond what a typical victims' fund covers," Carnegie says. "And we're in it for the long-term. ... We know there are needs that are really going to last for years to come, because people are not going to get over this easily."

The Southern Arizona chapter of the American Red Cross also received a torrent of donations, says Jennifer Tersigni, chief development officer for the organization.

"Rather than creating a separate fund, we felt the best way to honor the donations was to use the donations like we (normally) would—to help the community in need," Tersigni said. "It's the spirit (in which) the Giffords and Kelly family had asked people to support the Red Cross, because of our overall mission and the work that we do."

About $20,000 in donations specifically marked "in honor of Congresswoman Giffords" came in during the past year, but Tersigni says the overall effect of Kelly's call has been much greater, with donations in general increasing this year.

The Red Cross also worked with Giffords' office to spearhead nationwide free Save-a-Life Saturday training, during which more than 11,000 people—1,700 from Southern Arizona—have gathered to learn first-aid and CPR skills.

Since the shootings, dozens of other opportunities have opened up to allow people to donate to causes near and dear to the hearts of those we lost. For instance, the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Foundation had accrued more than $286,000 from more than 1,800 donors as of December.

The foundation created a scholarship in Green's name that will allow Southern Arizona girls as young as 9 to participate in a young women's political-leadership program that is usually open only to high school girls. The 9-year-old Green was interested in government and politics and had just been elected to the Mesa Verde Elementary School student council when her life was cut short.

Green was also honored with a University of Arizona School of Government and Public Policy scholarship bearing the names of her and Daniel Hernandez Jr., the intern who stayed by Giffords' side after the shootings. The scholarship, which is for students interested in government and public service, has accrued more than $95,000 from nearly 80 donors. The first two recipients were announced this year.

Arizona State University, Pima Community College and the University of California at Santa Cruz have established scholarships in the name of Gabe Zimmerman, who was Giffords' director of outreach and constituent services when he was killed on Jan. 8.

Ron Barber, the district director for Giffords' office who was seriously wounded in the attack, launched the Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding, which has raised more than $300,000. The fund received a major boost in March with a benefit concert that featured Jackson Browne, Alice Cooper, David Crosby, Graham Nash, Calexico and more than a dozen other artists.

Barber and his family ended up onstage at the end of the show, joining the musicians for a rendition of "Teach Your Children."

The Fund for Civility, Respect and Understanding is supporting anti-bullying efforts in local schools and mental-health programs for teens and young adults.

The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona has been handling many of the memorial funds since the shooting. Evan Mendelson, vice president of donor relations and program services, says she's been overwhelmed by the giving.

"It's amazing, the diversity of funds and ways to show support," she said. "Each one has a different way to remember the victims."

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