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2001 The Record (Bergen County, N.J.). Thomas E. Franklin, Staff Photographer

The North Jersey Media Group Disaster Relief Fund

The fund was set up on the afternoon of September 11, 2001 as employees and executives of The Record newspaper watched from corporate headquarters as the World Trade Center Towers disappeared from the New York City skyline. North Jersey Media Group is a family-owned company that publishes The Record and Herald News daily newspapers, 28 weekly newspapers and five monthly niche publications. The company also operates a commercial printing plant in Morris County and internet site www.northjersey.com. The company, through all its properties, serves a six-county region in Northern New Jersey and reaches New Jersey-oriented readers across the nation through its web site.

North Jersey Media Group has long had a strong tradition of community service. It is well known in the area for its 10-year old annual food drive, the largest in New Jersey. In addition, the company sponsors an annual Bear Hugs for the Holidays campaign to deliver new teddy bears to patients in hospitals throughout North Jersey. In 2000, The Record and Herald News delivered 7,295 bears to 28 hospitals and agencies in five northern New Jersey counties. The company is dedicated to literacy, education and the general well-being of its neighbors.

North Jersey Media Group became the first publisher in the New York metropolitan area to respond to the disaster by setting up a disaster relief fund with $50,000 in seed money on September 11. Ads starting running in the company's daily newspapers the next day asking the public to meet or exceed the corporate donation. By September 18, seven days after the disaster, the public had matched the $50,000 challenge. In November, public donations reached $1 million. Based on data provided by the Community Foundation of New Jersey, in terms of public donations, the fund is out-performing the local United Way fund and funds set up by other New Jersey newspapers.

What is the purpose of the fund?
The fund is set up to assist grieving families from northern New Jersey, primarily those with children who have lost one or more parents in the national tragedies of September 11, 2001. Our current understanding is that several funds exist to meet immediate short-term needs. The company has actively sought out information regarding the effects of such tragedies on communities (such as the Oklahoma City domestic terrorist attack) and found that the rebuilding needs are far-reaching and longer term than many can immediately imagine or anticipate. The goal of the North Jersey Media Group fund is, therefore, to meet the longer term needs as much as possible. Long term needs might include individual counseling support, services to combat substance abuse, health insurance supplementation, daycare and related activities, counseling for children, support groups for survivors, benefits eligibility, educational assistance, oversight and coordination of the care giving process, and other yet-to-be determined issues of unknown impact. If it is discovered that the short-term needs are not being adequately handled, the allocations committee may decide to redistribute funds to meet emergencies.

Why does North Jersey need a fund?
The World Trade Center disaster is extremely personal to the communities served by North Jersey Media Group. Bergen County, where the company is headquartered, has long been known as a bedroom community to New York City and is home to more adults employed in New York City than any other northern New Jersey county. According to the New Jersey State Police, 20% of the missing persons are from either Bergen or Passaic counties, the two key counties served by The Record, the flagship publication of the group. Among 86 towns served in just Bergen and Passaic counties, 52% have people missing as a result of the attack. One town, Glen Rock, NJ, lost more people in the World Trade Center disaster than from the Vietnam and Korean wars combined. Ridgewood, NJ, lost 12 residents on September 11. Of those 12, one was recently engaged to be married; 11 were parents; and 9 were fathers who left behind 24 children aged 13 and under. Within North Jersey, more than 400 families have been specifically identified as direct loss families, with more than 140 from Bergen County alone.

Who is contributing to the fund?
Most of the contributions come directly from the public. Approximately 30% of the donations have been a result of contributions to receive a copy of the Record's now-famous photo of the three fire fighters raising the American flag in the rubble of the World Trade Center. The photo was taken by staff photographer Thomas E. Franklin and continues to inspire Americans nationwide, many of whom have contributed $5 - $5,000 to receive an 8.5 x 11 inch reprint.

In addition to public donations, several companies have run drives or provided matching funds for their employees' donations. Among the more generous have been the Russ Berrie company, located in Oakland, NJ. Russ Berrie has donated over $100,000 to the fund with one-third coming directly from employees, one-third from matching funds, and one-third from Mr. Russ Berrie personally.

How will the funds be distributed?
North Jersey Media Group is creating an allocations committee that includes representation from our company, the World Trade Center work force, previous disaster survivors who have a unique perspective on surviving family needs, and community leaders well versed in charitable giving programs. This community-based allocations committee will operate independently from North Jersey Media Group and have full discretion to set the parameters for final allocations to victims' families. They may ask assistance from local United Way and other agencies operating in northern New Jersey to help identify potential clients, ensure that funds are not duplicated to recipient families, and see that needs being met by this fund are not eligible for other available fund resources. North Jersey Media Group will supply staff to the committee to assist them in their administrative needs and act as a liaison with other community agencies should additional information be required for decision-making purposes.

What percentage of funds are being used for administrative costs?
One hundred percent of all funds donated by the public are being reserved for distribution to victims' families. All administrative fees are being handled in two ways:

  1. Any immediate fees that may be required for mailings are taken out of the North Jersey Media Group's own seed donation to the fund.

  2. Future fees will be taken out of interest generated from the investment of the fund in money market instruments. This reserves one hundred percent of the principal plus a good percentage of the interest for distribution to the families.
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I still have questions. Whom can I contact?

at North Jersey Media Group:

150 River Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601

Diane Haines
Public Relations Liaison

Rhona Bronson
Director of Marketing

Ed Efchak
Vice President of Marketing

Copyright © 2004 North Jersey Media Group Inc.
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