DAYTON STRONG: The people who raised $5 million this summer for victims of the mass shootings and tornadoes

“The generosity of Daytonians has been unbelievable,” Dayton Foundation president says.

When Dayton comes together, check writing arms get a workout.

This is evident by the nearly $5 million the community and its supporters donated to funds established by the Dayton Foundation in the wake of the 15 Memorial Day tornadoes and Aug. 4 mass shootings.

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The money has come in the form of small checks from little kids and big checks from corporations and community events.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Bartenders have donated their tips and businesses have sold Dayton Strong T-shirts, donating the proceeds.

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Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

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"The generosity of Daytonians has been unbelievable," Mike Parks, the president of the foundation established in 1921, told us. "The money never addresses the pain, but it is a small way that we all can show we care. It is part of the healing process for the community."


The Dayton Foundation’s efforts to help Dayton help Dayton following the tornadoes began right away.

>> RELATED: Tornado recovery resource guide

“The morning after the tornadoes we huddled as a staff and knew we needed to help,”Parks said. “It is what the community foundation is here for: we help you help others. We knew it was our mission to help.”

The result was the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund.

>> How to contribute to the tornado relief fund. 

The foundation’s staff huddled again after a man with a pistol  modified to act like riffle murdered nine and injured dozens of others on in the heart of the Oregon District.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Parks said it was much more straightforward when it came to distributing the funds following the tornadoes.

Monies collected — $1.7 million thus far from 3,300 donors —  would be distributed to nonprofit who could then use them to help those impacted by the devastating tornadoes.

That sort of effort fit in with what the foundation does daily, he says.

“We’ve been around 100 years. Most of the work of the foundation is doing more quietly or behind the scenes,” Parks said. “We are not serving the individual, but we are able to help charitable, kind people who want to help other people.”


The fact that individuals would get the monies collected for mass shooting victims — 3.1 million from 4,400 donors  —complicated things much more in the case of the Dayton Oregon District Tragedy Fund.

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“How do we get charitable money to individuals, which is not normally something we do,” Parks said.


The how was already out there.

The Dayton Foundation received texts, phone calls and emails from representatives from community foundations from around the country.

“Unfortunately there are dozens and dozens of mass shootings that have happened around the country,” he said. “They (the other community foundations) started to point us in the right direction. We didn’t know how we were going to distribute it, but we knew we could help.”

Parks  said some of the most important guidance the Dayton Foundation received came from attorney Kenneth Roy Feinberg and his longtime associate Camille Biros.

The pair have worked to help communities compensate victims in the September 11th terrorist attacks to a list of 30 mass shootings that includes the  Virginia Tech, Orlando, Newtown and the Aurora mass shootings.

“They do it all as volunteers. They never charge anybody a penny,” Parks said. “They are helping us whenever we need it.”

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Credit: Tom Gilliam

Parks said Feinberg and Biros helped the foundation develop a structure that included a volunteer committee co-chaired by Brother Raymond Fitz, former president of the University of Dayton, and Gary LeRoy, associate dean for student affairs and admission at Wright State University Boonshoft School of Medicine.


The community outpouring of support has been unprecedented, Parks said.

“It is amazing how resilient Dayton is and how caring,” he said. “Those of us who live in Dayton, we know how caring it is. This is over and above the generosity people have already shown.”

“Thousands of people have stepped forward to say they have wanted to help,” he said.

>> RELATED: Tornado relief: How you can help 

Between 60 and 70 events have been held for the Greater Dayton Disaster Relief Fund alone.  Events are still in the works.


The 937-Live, Legends for Relief Concert organized by Lakeside guitarist Steven Shockley and his wife, Brenda Lutz, raised $109,840 for the tornado fund.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

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The owners of Heart Mercantile, 438 E. Fifth St. in Dayton’s Oregon District, raised $37,228.17 in August for the victims of the mass shooting  through T-shirt sales.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Esther Price donated a day’s earnings, resulting in an $85,816 donation to the mass shooting fund.

Community members flocked to the Dayton mainstay’s locations, Parks said.


“The cars stretched out into the street,” he added.

Nearly $70,000 was donated at Gem City Shine hosted by Dave Chappelle. 

“Gem City Shine was helpful not only for the fundraising,  but for the healing and what that meant for our community,” Parks said. “You had a complete cross section of the Dayton Community there.”

As many as 40,000 people are estimated to have attended the street party that included an appearance by Jon Stewart and performance by Chance the Rapper and Stevie Wonder. 

>> Transcript of what Dave Chappelle said at Gem City Shine block party

“The tornado fund donations largely came from donors from Dayton and Southwest Ohio. (The mass shooting) funds included Dayton and Southwest Ohio, but also included many donors from around the country and also around the world,” Parks said.


Parks said community giving for shooting victims helped keep the tornado fund top of mind. It might have faded to the back of most people’s minds.

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“The long-term community recovery estimate from FEMA is six to 10 years,” he said. “That is going to be a much longer time frame for fundraising”

Parks said the foundation will continue to collect funds for both funds.

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Funds collected for mass shooting victims through Oct. 31 will be distributed to victims by Thanksgiving, he said.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

“Our goal from day one is to get those funds to those families quickly, fairly and equitably.”

A second distribution will occur sometime in 2020 for money donated after Oct. 31.

“What is absolutely amazing here is the number of funds,  the number of people who said they want to help,” he said. “The outpouring of support is phenomenal.”

As of 2018, The Dayton Foundation managed 17,000 grants totaling $48.3 million from 3,700 funds.

Credit: Dayton Foundation

Credit: Dayton Foundation

It has been involved in projects ranging from the Schuster Center and Job Center.

Parks said he is pleased the foundation was able to help the community as it recovers from the tornado and mass shooting.

“That is why we’ve been here 100 years and why we will be here the next 100 years,” he said.

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