Jeff Dion, executive director of the National Compassion Fund, talks Thursday afternoon at a news conference at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Auburn. He is helping the Maine Community Foundation facilitate donations and distribute them to those affected by the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Seated with him, from left, are foundation Chairwoman Adilah Muhammad, foundation CEO Deborah Ellwood and Lewiston-Auburn Area Response Fund Chairman Tom Platz. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

AUBURN — Thousands of individuals, institutions and corporations have donated a total of $1.8 million to the Lewiston-Auburn Area Response Fund in the three weeks since the mass shooting in Lewiston.

The organization coordinating the collection of the donations — Maine Community Foundation — held a news conference Thursday afternoon to announce the details that are known so far and explain how the money will be distributed, vowing total transparency to ensure donors’ gifts get to the intended recipients.

Foundation President and CEO Deborah Ellwood said a steering committee of 13 members will be led by Lewiston architect Tom Platz, president and CEO of Platz Associates. The committee’s first meeting was scheduled immediately following the news conference, which was held at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Auburn.

Deborah Ellwood, right, chief executive officer at the Maine Community Foundation, answers questions Thursday afternoon at a news conference at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Auburn. To her left is foundation Chairwoman Adilah Muhammad. Both are helping facilitate donations and distribute them to those affected by the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

“This process will not always be easy, there will be hard conversations,” Platz said, “but this work will always be with the best interests of the victims and their families in mind.”

Ellwood said the fund, which was established within 36 hours of the Oct. 25 tragedy that killed 18 people and injured another 13, has two components — one to support victims and families and the other focused on broader community needs. Ellwood said $1.3 million would go directly to the Lewiston-Auburn Victims & Families Fund, as specifically designated by donors.

Attorney Jeff Dion, whose sister was murdered, is a consultant to Maine Community Foundation and has an unfortunate, but extremely beneficial background of experience to offer. He has helped 30 communities administer victim donation funds.


“What I can promise you is that this community will learn from the experiences of other communities that have gone through that,” Dion said. “That will help inform the process to make it a better process,” adding the process will be transparent, victim-centered and trauma-informed.

Dion said the steering committee will make policy decisions about who is eligible for the funds and how they will be distributed.

But what Dion also brings is the experience learned from other mass casualty events. “I’ll also help guide them and let them know if you do this, then you can expect this to happen, based on our prior experience,” he said.

“For donors, I want people to know that 100% of the dollars they donate to the victims and families fund will be distributed to victims and families.”

Tom Platz, chairman of the Lewiston-Auburn Area Response Fund, addresses the media Thursday afternoon at the Residence Inn by Marriott in Auburn. The local developer and philanthropist is working with the Maine Community Foundation to help facilitate donations and distribute them to those affected by the Oct. 25 mass shooting in Lewiston. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

One issue Dion said they face is that law enforcement cannot share victim information with the organization because it is a private organization. So, they are asking people to sign up on a contact list at to help them identify next of kin and people they need to reach out to.

Donors and others are asked to sign up as well to receive email updates on the fund’s progress. Dion said they have already started the outreach process to help identify possible recipients of the help, with 48 people already signed up.


A town hall will be held Dec. 6 to explain the process to anyone, answer questions and get feedback to help refine the process.

Shortly afterward, an online application process will begin so they can validate with law enforcement, emphasizing that nobody is standing in judgment, they simply want to ensure the validity of the process.

Dion said the victims and their families are fairly easy to identify but a large group of people who were physically present at one of the shootings but was not injured are also entitled to monetary help and they are encouraged to apply.

The steering committee was set to consider a proposal to make advance payments to families of the victims, which could happen in the next few weeks.

The donation fund will remain active until early 2024 to allow the broadest possible opportunity for individuals and institutional donors to come forward and pledge funds.

Based on information from law enforcement, the organization estimates that about 150 people were directly affected by the shootings who were either killed, injured or physically present but not physically injured.

“We’re going to treat people as people,” Dion pledged, saying people in the death category will all get the same amount of money and the psychologically traumatized will all get the same amount. He said those injured will be decided slightly differently, based on the facts, which need to be gathered and analyzed by the steering committee.

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