Dispersing ‘Marshall Strong’ Donations a “Long and Complicated Process”

May 31, 2018

Credit Matt Markgraf, WKMS

Some community members took to social media alleging donations to the ‘Marshall Strong’ account were not reaching Marshall County High School shooting victims. One of the individuals in charge of distributing the funds said it’s a complicated process.

A 10 person board comprised of members of the Marshall County Rotary Club and community members heads the task of divvying up the $630,000 of donations intended for the victims of the January Marshall County High School shooting. Rotary Club President Steve Fisk said the process of getting the money where it needs to go is more complicated than expected.

 

“You cannot imagine the legal issues we run into when writing checks,” Fisk said.

He said they can’t write checks directly to the victims because they are minors. And, he said, there are other issues when writing checks to the parents.

 

“If the child lives with the mother, does she get it all and the father gets none? If the child lives with the father, does he get it all and the mother get none?” Fisk said. “If the parents don’t use the money for the benefit of the child, then the child has the right to sue the parents and Rotary because it didn’t get used for their purpose.”

Fisk said the board is consulting with an attorney before making any major moves. He said they have met several times to discuss who the money will go to, and have reached out to the Kentucky State Police for consultation.

“First we had to define what ‘victim’ meant. People were donating to a ‘victim’s fund,’ but no one had defined ‘victim.’ There is an argument that anyone in the school system is a victim,” Fisk said. “We turned to the Kentucky State Police; they defined one group that they had, it was an easy break, it was ‘shooting victims.’”

 

Fisk said this encompassed anyone who suffered from a gunshot wound. Of these students, there were two deceased, four in critical condition and 10 with non-life threatening injuries. He said the board discussed using some money for mental health resources but was told by an official at the high school that a series of grants will cover the cost for people who have already requested it.  

Some on Facebook have claimed the Rotary hasn’t paid for any medical bills. Fisk said the organization hasn’t been made aware of any medical bills that need to be paid. He said a representative of the families appointed by the high school is who they talk to when they are looking to see what the victims need.

“Now, I understand there are ongoing medical expenses and those bills have not been paid,” Fisk said. “But we’ve been told by our contacts that there are no medical bills that will either not get paid or have not been paid.”

He said the board would allocate money to pay a medical bill if they were made aware that a victim’s family needed it.

Fisk said about half of the money has already been set aside for scholarships and given to the families of Bailey Holt and Preston Cope - the two 15-year-old students who died in the shooting. He said there were no funeral expenses for them.

He said money will be given to other victims’ families in the upcoming days and weeks. He said the process in doling out the funds might seem like it’s taking a long time, but has only just begun.

 

“Everybody wants to start the clock back in January when the shooting happened,” Fisk said. “I mean the vast majority of that money has been sitting here less than 60 days.”

Fisk said the social media posts have made the board more careful with how they distribute the money. He said they are planning to have the victim’s families sign a receipt and release letter to show that they received the funds.

“Nobody wants to get sued by doing something that hopefully will be beneficial to others,” Fisk said.

 

Fisk said the Rotary Club has awarded two $5,000 scholarships to Marshall County High School seniors this year. They plan to award two $2,500 grants for every senior class, one in Cope’s name and in Holt’s name. What would have been Cope’s and Holt’s graduating class will receive four of these scholarships.

Fisk said donations to the Marshall Strong account continue to come in and hopes one day the group can provide larger scholarships.