More than $ 100,000 in donations for the Baghdad fire to be repaid | Navajo-Hopi Observer
Nanci Hutson, special for the Williams-Grand Canyon News
Originally posted: July 7, 2021 3:50 p.m.
BAGHDAD, Arizona – As an accidentally started wildfire in late May roared through Baghdad, destroying and damaging 24 homes, requiring the evacuation of 1,500 residents, the Yavapai County community rallied in support these families.
A Yavapai County United Way appeal generated some $ 164,000 in donations, some $ 15,000 in emergency dollars distributed almost immediately through the local chapter of the American Red Cross and other local agencies.
Such generosity to the victims of the Spur fire has proven to be an inspiration to heads of agencies requesting funds to provide needed assistance, Demers said.
Yet just before the July 4 holiday, United Way’s donation stream came under unexpected scrutiny on social media given the intention of mining company Freeport-McMoRan to provide new homes and a assistance to all victims.
Some posters misinterpreted Centraide’s role in distributing funds to these victims.
At all times throughout this emergency, Demers ensured that his fundraising agency complied with its strict financial accounting to ensure that every dollar raised is distributed as intended by donors. Accusations of anything to the contrary are wrong, she said.
On Friday, July 2, United Way’s 10-member task force, made up of community leaders, including representatives from the mining company, was informed that since the company’s insurance provider will cover all employee losses , their relief is no longer necessary.
Not only that, Demers said, the task force was told by company officials that Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules do not allow the use of charitable funds for similar expenses.
“While our intention was to distribute all funds, we are reassured that Freeport-McMoRan is fully meeting the needs of its employees and their families who have been affected by the fire. This is a real testament to the company’s strong commitment to its employees and the community, ”Demers said in a written statement Friday.
On Tuesday July 6, after conferring with task force leaders, Demers said she was sending a letter to all donors to clarify the situation. All will be allowed to receive a refund if they choose, she said.
Centraide follows a donor wishes policy for all of its financial donations to charities in the region.
Throughout this effort, Demers said she continues to be inspired by how so many people across the country have reached out to help another community in crisis.
“It’s heartwarming to know what a great community we live in where we can rally with one another for these needs,” said Demers. “No one knows in such devastation what the recovery process might look like, or what the recovery schedule might be.
“What we do know is that we have an amazing community and together we can rally and respond.”
As for Freeport-McMoRan, Demers said she could not but applaud their commitment to stand up for their “city”.
“They went above and beyond,” Demers said of the company.
Messages left with company officials on Tuesday were not immediately returned.
The Centraide task force will continue to assess the unmet needs of those victims for whom this fund can be used and will provide a public detail on how the funds are distributed, confirmed Demers.
She said she looked forward to responding to any concerns or questions anyone might have about this fund or the agency’s ongoing fund distribution policies.
Anyone who wants their donations – check or online credit card payment – refunded will get their money back within a week, or even sooner, she said.
“And we’re here to answer any questions,” Demers said.