Community Foundation of New Jersey

A Look Back, Part 9: Responding to Tragedy

The Star-Ledger advertised in its own paper for contributions to The Star-Ledger Disaster Relief Fund.

As part of its forward-looking programming, CFNJ continually seeks the input of its board members, fundholders, and fellow community members to gauge what issues are most important and what problems need addressing. In the weeks and months after September 11, 2001, the issue at the forefront for nearly all Americans was coping with and responding to that day’s tragic attacks.

Early on, emotions ranged from pain and anguish to patriotism and duty. These feelings all contributed to a period of strong national unity and presented an unprecedented opportunity to do good in the community.

One of CFNJ’s first and most prominent programs inspired by the September 11th attacks was a partnership with The Newark Star-Ledger to boost charitable giving. Through an introduction made by board member Marilyn Pfaltz, The Star-Ledger founded and strongly promoted The Star-Ledger Disaster Relief Fund, housed at CFNJ, to which residents could donate and have those dollars go to relief efforts.

“I went to our post office box in Morristown [after the first ads ran],” remembers Jim Kellogg, “and the whole box was full with checks for The Star-Ledger Fund. The response was amazing and contributed to something really worthwhile.”

In total, the fund raised nearly $1.6 million and supported The Salvation Army, the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Foundation, the New Jersey Interfaith Partnership for Disaster Recovery, and the New York Times Neediest Cases Fund. It also was an important reminder that CFNJ’s core mission is to serve the community, especially when there is great need.

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In the years since September 11, 2001, CFNJ has worked with many individuals and families to set up funds in memory of lost loved ones.

The Todd Ouida Children’s Foundation is one of these funds, and today it is making a real difference in the lives of children across New Jersey. Founded by the family of Todd Ouida, a young man who lost his life on September 11th, the foundation today celebrates Todd’s life through a meaningful legacy of helping others. Born out of Todd’s own successful struggle with childhood anxiety, the foundation provides financial support for children’s mental health initiatives, raises awareness, and provides information for those seeking help – showing that great good can come of such tragedy.

For Barbara Pandolfo, creating a scholarship in the memory of her daughter Dominique, an expressive young woman lost on September 11th, that helps young people achieve their educational goals keeps Dominique’s spirit alive. After working with CFNJ to establish a scholarship fund, Barbara has watched ten young women study everything from chemistry and engineering to planning and public policy at schools such as Cornell and Rutgers. Over the years, the scholarship recipients have updated Barbara on their activities and plans, and provided a real glimpse of the friendships, learning experiences, and maturing that have taken place – all in Dominique’s memory.

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