UPDATE: How you can help support Woodmore Elementary victims - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: How you can help support Woodmore Elementary victims

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UPDATE: The Woodmore bus crash tragedy has brought the Chattanooga community together, many are giving food, time and even their blood.

The amount of love and support we've seen over the past few days is hard to put into words, the community has rallied around Woodmore Elementary and it's teachers providing breakfast, lunch, teddy bears and love to grieving students. Some firefighters even cooked breakfast for the first responders who answered the call. Officials say it's these small gestures that mean more than you will ever know.  

HOW TO HELP | Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga Woodmore Fund

Hundreds of people of all different ages and backgrounds showed up to give blood just hours after the crash on Talley road. The elementary school bus flipped over onto its side, claiming the lives of six innocent children on their way home. Officials say 6 more are in critical condition at Erlanger Children's Hospital, a community's worst nightmare. 

"It's sad I have a daughter and I can't imagine her going to school and not coming back so I feel for these families who have lost their sweet children," said blood donor Brittany Frizzell.

Across the room, we found Lindsay Holt pulling herself together after a prayer with a stranger who's dealing with unspeakable pain. 

"She was a grandmother to one of the little girls that had lost their life and that was really emotional," said blood donor Lindsay Holt. 

Family members of the victims in the crash and even family members of the fallen five have donated blood. The need for 0- negative blood will be critical in the coming weeks.
Your blood might not reach a child from the crash, but it will help. 

"We don't know who the blood goes to," said Mindy Quinn, Marketing Director for Blood Assurance. "We don't get that specific information but we do know that the blood that is given here stays locally." 

Some are collecting toys and teddy bears for the survivors. Volunteers also packed vans full of food and water for the teachers and students who came to class. 

"As a teacher as a principal, every kid in our school is our kid so it's like one of your own," said Principal Gail Chuy, East Hamilton School 
  
"In tragedies like this people want to have a way to show support to show their love to take action and sometimes they feel powerless," said Maeghan Jones, President of Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.  

Maeghan Jones with Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga warns others about the possibility of fake GoFundMe pages asking for money.
She says its best to verify the page or organization before you give.  Channel 3 has verified the  "Woodmore Fund" set up by  Hamilton County Schools in partnership  with United Way and Community Foundation. It will directly support the victims and their families with a focus on meeting immediate medical bills,  mental health care and basic necessities first. 
Jones wants the victims' families to know an entire community is praying for them. 

"Know that we are holding you in our hearts, that we are grieving with you and that we are sending you support and love," said Jones. 

If you would like to donate blood, Blood Assurance officials ask that you first call ahead to make an appointment. 

You can also text "Woodmore" to 91999 or call 2-1-1 


PREVIOUS STORY: Hamilton County Schools has partnered with the United Way and the Community Fund of Greater Chattanooga to create a fund for the families affected by the fatal school bus crash on Monday.   

The Woodmore Fund has now been set up at the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga to help those impacted by the tragic bus crash on Talley Road. School officials say the Community Foundation will be working in partnership with United Way of Greater Chattanooga to ensure these funds are dispersed effectively and efficiently to those in need. 

Checks can be made to "The Woodmore Fund" payable to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. Checks can be dropped off or mailed to 1270 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402.

Checks should be made to "The Woodmore Fund" payable to the United Way of Greater Chattanooga. Checks can be dropped off or mailed to 630 Market Street, Chattanooga, TN 37402. You can also text "Woodmore" to 91999 or call 2-1-1 (423-265-8000).

HOW TO HELP | Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga Woodmore Fund

Officials say many community members, alumni and even strangers have reached out to help. Some have brought food, water and teddy bears to the school for grieving kids. 

School officials say teachers and staff are overwhelmed with the outpouring of love and support. 

"We at Hamilton County Schools ask you also keep the Woodmore Elementary School community in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time."- Amy Katcher, Communications Coordinator for Hamilton County Dept. of Education. 

Channel 3 can not verify any other "Gofund me" pages that are currently circulating on the internet, please be aware that some pages may be fraudulent. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning people to be aware of scams trying to get money disguised as memorial funds for Woodmore Elementary. 

In the wake of the horrific school bus tragedy in Chattanooga, TN, BBB and its Wise Giving Alliance partner is warning about the potential for fund raising scams, and is urging donors to be aware of the different circumstances that often emerge in tragedy-related philanthropy.

“This accident in our community is such a shocking and emotional event,” said Jim Winsett, President of BBB Chattanooga. “Many people will want to support and donate to the families of the victims, the injured children, Woodmore Elementary, and the community. We are warning donors to be on the lookout for questionable solicitors and scammers, not to mention people who might have good intentions but no experience with charity fund raising or how to execute a mission objective”.

BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the national charity monitoring arm of the Better Business Bureau, urges donors to give thoughtfully and avoid those seeking to take advantage of the generosity of others. Here are BBB WGA’s tips for trusted giving in the wake of a tragedy:

1. Thoughtful Giving: Take the time to check out the charity to avoid wasting your generosity by donating to a questionable or poorly managed effort. The first request for a donation may not be the best choice. Be proactive and find trusted charities that are providing assistance.

2. State Government Registration: The States of Tennessee and Georgia require charities to register with its state government agency (State Attorney General’s office) before they solicit for charitable gifts. If the charity is not registered, that may be a significant red flag.

3. Respecting Victims and Their Families: Organizations raising funds should get permission from the families to use either the names of the victims and/or any photographs of them. Experience shows that some charities raising funds for tragic accidents and not requesting permission were the subject of criticism from victims’ families.

4. How Will Donations Be Used? Watch out for vague appeals that do not identify the intended use of funds. For example, how will the donations help victims’ families? Also, unless told otherwise, donors will assume that funds collected quickly in the wake of a tragedy will be spent just as quickly. See if the appeal identifies when the collected funds will be used.

5. What if a Family Sets Up Its Own Assistance Fund? Some families may decide to set up their own assistance funds. Be mindful that such funds may not be set up as charities. Also, make sure that collected monies are received and administered by a third party such as a bank, CPA or lawyer. This will help provide oversight and ensure the collected funds are used appropriately (e.g., paying for funeral costs, counseling, and other tragedy-related needs.)

6. Advocacy Organizations: Tragedies that involve school buses and children can also generate requests from a variety of advocacy organizations that support mandatory seat belts and other bus related safety features.  Donors can support these efforts as well but note that some of these advocacy groups are not tax exempt as charities. Also, watch out for newly created advocacy groups that will be difficult to check out.

7. Online Cautions: Never click on links to charities on unfamiliar websites or in texts or emails. These may take you to a lookalike website where you will be asked to provide personal financial information or to click on something that downloads harmful malware into your computer. Don’t assume that charity recommendations on social media have already been vetted.

8. Financial Transparency: After funds are raised for a tragedy, it is even more important for organizations to provide an accounting of how funds were spent. Transparent organizations will post this information on their websites so that anyone can find out and not have to wait until the audited financial statements are available sometime in the future.

9. Newly Created or Established Organizations: This is a personal giving choice, but an established charity will more likely have the experience to quickly address the circumstances and have a track record that can be evaluated. A newly formed organization may be well-meaning but will be difficult to check out and may not be well managed.

10. Tax Deductibility: Not all organizations collecting funds to assist this tragedy are tax exempt as charities under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Donors can support these other entities but keep this in mind if they want to take a deduction for federal income tax purposes. In addition, contributions that are donor-restricted to help a specific individual/family are not deductible as charitable donations, even if the recipient organization is a charity.

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