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Surfside victims fund to start distributing $5K per family

Separate operation is helping with family unification travel

Millions have been raised, and these funds are making sure the money gets into the hands of those affected by the condo collapse tragedy.
Millions have been raised, and these funds are making sure the money gets into the hands of those affected by the condo collapse tragedy.

SURFSIDE, Fla. – Families affected by the condo collapse can begin applying for money through the Support Surfside Fund.

One of several funds created after the tragic collapse of the Champlain Towers South on June 24, Support Surfside is a collaboration led by the Coral Gables Community Foundation, Key Biscayne Community Foundation and Miami Foundation.

Organizers say gifts in the amount of $5,000 per family will be made available to designated representatives of the following groups:

  • Survivors of the Champlain Towers South collapse
  • Current residents of Champlain Towers South but not present at the time of the collapse
  • Immediate family members or legally appointed representatives of missing or deceased individuals

To apply, go to supportsurfside.submittable.com/submit.

“We know that right now the needs are so individualized and personal to people that we want to give people as much agency as possible, so monetary gifts really go a long way,” said Rebecca Fishman Lipsey, CEO and president of The Miami Foundation.

The distributions are being done with aid from the National Compassion Fund, which has also helped distribute funds donated related to other high-profile incidents, including the Pulse Nightclub shooting and the El Paso mass shooting.

“We can guarantee that every dollar that is donated to victims, 100% of those funds will go to the victims and survivors of this event,” said Jeffrey Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund.

The Support Surfside Fund has raised $1.7 million in donations received plus $1.5 million in pledges. The first million will be distributed immediately through the application process.

The fund has already donated $155,000 in cash cards to 149 family members and survivors at their family assistance center.

Another $155,000 was allocated to groups providing “wraparound” services that include food and mental health support. They include: American Red Cross South Florida, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Miami, Hatzalah of South Florida, Jewish Community Services South Florida (JCS), Jewish Volunteer Center (via Greater Miami Jewish Federation), Food Rescue Miami, Salvation Army South Florida, and The Shul of Bal Harbor.

Click here for more info on the Support Surfside Fund. Questions can be emailed to info@supportsurfside.org (including your full name and unit number in the subject line of the email). NOTE: Champlain Towers North residents can reach out directly to the Miami Foundation regarding “relocation accommodations provided through Michael Capponi’s Global Empowerment Mission.”

‘Operation Helping Hands’

In the meantime, the United Way of Miami-Dade also has a fund called “Operation Helping Hands,” whose focus is on so-called “resource gaps” in supplies and services.

“Our United Way of Miami-Dade team’s focus has been on the reunification of families in the wake of this tragedy,” United Way of Miami-Dade spokeswoman Cristina Blanco said.

Their key partner is American Airlines, which says it donated 3 million miles to help cover air travel for impacted family members.

“United Way and American Airlines are also present at the Family Assistance Center in Surfside to coordinate bookings, changes to existing reservations, refunds, etc,” an airline spokesperson said. “We are also waiving any fees associated with the air transport of the deceased.

“If the person that is requesting assistance is in South Florida, our team recommends that they visit the Family Assistance Center located at the Sea View hotel at 9909 Collins Ave.,” the spokesperson added. “The family assistance center has many resources (such as flights, financial assistance, counseling, etc.) to offer affected individuals/families. Additionally, affected individuals/families can call the Family Assistance Center at 877-777-4066 or email surfsidefac@miamidade.gov for more information.”

Some families have asked if the miles American Airlines donated are available to send their recovered loved ones’ remains home for those with family out of state. A spokesperson said people in that situation can call American Airlines at 800-228-7878 or email TLC@AA.com and that those arrangements are taken care of free of charge.

Operation Helping Hands has raised $448,000 to date for Surfside. United Way Miami also funds the Red Cross, one of the first responders on the scene the morning of the tragedy.

“Remaining funds will be allocated and distributed as soon as a deep/vetted needs assistance is completed so that we avoid duplication of funds,” a spokesperson said. “Some initial identified needs in the short term and also longer recovery term are housing, clothing, basic personal care supplies, food.”

For more information on the Operation Helping Hands fund, click here.


About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."