Callaway County commissioners authorized the first two payouts from the county's new disaster relief fund Monday.
The disaster relief fund was actually first established in 2011, Presiding Commissioner Gary Jungermann said.
"Then we never used it because there needed to be donations to open it," he said. "The fire drove people to start donating."
People started sending checks almost out of the blue after the Jan. 21 fire at the Evergreen Condos complex in Holts Summit displaced some 30 families, Jungermann said. The first donation came from local resident Rebecca Shobey. She started her own benefit fund but realized managing a disaster fund was biting off more than she could chew.
She sent the $1,213 collected so far to the Callaway County Disaster Relief Fund. Another donation of $250 soon followed.
The Callaway County Emergency Operations Center is taking the lead on managing the fund. Michelle Kidwell, the center's director, has received five applications for monetary assistance so far. She said money donated thus far will be prioritized to help survivors of the Evergreen Condos fire. Any remaining money will stay in the fund until the county's next large-scale disaster.
"We're going to have to set some parameters for how the fund can be used," Kidwell said. "It's not so much for individual people; it's for the large-scale incidents — something like this where 30 families are displaced at 2 a.m. in the middle of winter."
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She said she closely questions applicants to ensure their need is genuine, and sign-offs from the commission provide an additional safeguard.
"This fund is going to be closely watched," Jungermann said.
Monetary requests so far have been modest. (Other requests for items like replacement furniture have been successfully filled without spending disaster fund money.) The first two, approved Feb. 6, were $50 for diabetic supplies and $123.58 for the lodging bill of a woman who stayed at a local motel while arranging for long-term accommodations.
"The first woman, her blood sugar meter got burned up in the fire, along with her test strips," Kidwell said.
Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the two payouts.
Jungermann said he's in favor of maintaining this fund because it allows charitably minded folks to make donations in a single place. They can have confidence that the money will go directly to the victims — no administrative fees will be withdrawn from the account, Jungermann said.
People interested in making a donation can mail funds to the treasurer's office at 10 E. 5 St., Room 109, Fulton, MO 65251. Checks should be made to the Callaway County Treasurer's office with a note marking it for the disaster relief fund.
Any victim of the fire who wants to request funds can contact the Community Organizations Active in Disasters chair at 573-642-5750 or the Callaway County Office of Emergency Management at 573-592-2480.