Chamber sets up fund

The Odessa Community Foundation is taking donations for funeral expenses and medical expenses for people impacted by the mass shooting Aug. 31 in Odessa.

Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, killed seven and injured 23. He was ultimately killed by police at the Cinergy Theater off State Highway 191.

Odessa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Renee Earls said the fund being used for these expenses was formed when three Odessa police officers were killed in 2007 following a domestic violence call.

“The foundation has been set up for many, many years and it’s specifically for community projects. It’s the same that we used for the Chris Kyle Memorial, so it is set up for designated funds. … We have a separate account for our foundation. It is overseen by the Odessa Chamber board of directors. We make quarterly reports at our board meetings. We have an annual meeting so … those funds are overseen by them. What we’ll do with this is we’ll set up a committee to oversee those donations,” Earls said.

“Our board will vote on how those are distributed. Originally, we set it up for first and foremost any funeral expenses. We realize there are many groups that are also collecting dollars that could go towards that and there have been funeral homes that have stepped up for free services. So once we see that all of those expenses are taken care of, it would then go to medical expenses for any people who are affected,” Earls said. “Basically they have already undergone a tremendous loss. We don’t want them to have a financial crisis, as well.”

She said they don’t know how much the fund will grow.

Asked if a family that could afford expenses could still be eligible, Earls said, “I think that we really have not even gotten that far, but that’s something to look at. We’ve had a couple of donors who have called and said I would like to designate for a particular person and our response to that would be, obviously, the fund is set for everyone but we would not also want to turn away money.”

“If someone wants to specifically give to a family,” Earls said, “we will make sure those funds get to that family. Some of these families have other funds that are going towards them. Some of these families may have some insurance that is going to cover some of their health expenses, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure as best as possible that no one has a financial liability for that’s tied back to this situation.”

The money would probably be reimbursed to the families and victims working with the individual vendors, she said.

“We just sent out our notice today. We had a little bit of social media over the weekend … but our email to our members — the businesses that we think would donate just went out this morning and we’ve seen some activity from that. I would say that we would not be dispersing funds immediately. We want to see what comes in. We want to see what kind of expenses there are for us to be able to help people. It’s very early on,” she said.

People may donate through the chamber website, or send a check made out to the Odessa Community Foundation Inc., P.O. Box 3626, Odessa, TX 79760. Earls said if people want to drop off cash, they can come to the chamber during business hours, 700 N. Grand Ave., No. 200, Odessa.