The city of Charleston, S.C., will distribute $2.5 million of the memorial fund for the parishioners affected by the fatal June shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church, Mayor Joseph P. Riley Jr. announced Thursday.
The Mother Emanuel Hope Fund has received about $2.8 million in donations from 6,500 people in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and four foreign nations, Mayor Riley said. The contributions ranged from 50 cents to $100,000.
On June 17, a gunman opened fire during a Bible study session, killing nine members of the church. The memorial fund was established after the massacre, most immediately for funeral expenses, with any excess going to the church.
Riley says $300,000 was initially distributed to pay for funerals and to the church to pay for the needs of the victims in the days immediately following the shootings. Later it was agreed that some of the funds would be distributed to victims' families and survivors.
Now, a team of pro-bono lawyers have created a distribution formula, under which 55 percent will go to the families of those who were killed and 25 percent goes to the three survivors of the Bible study, who were in a nearby room at the time of the shooting.
Money will also be distributed to the victims’ minor children as well as older children pursuing higher education educations, and to an account for the reimbursement of those who provided for the families after the shooting.
All of the money is in a trust account and will go tax-free to the recipients. The fund will continue to accept donations until the end of the year.
On Wednesday, Charleston honored the victims by renaming part of the street in front of the historic black church the Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District.
City council member William Dudley Gregorie said in a statement that African Methodist Episcopal bishops planned to join hands in front of the church to dedicate the new street sign, which was unanimously approved by the Charleston City Council as a resolution.
Their lives gave us a legacy, Councilman Gregorie said, "living legacy of forgiveness that will guide not only the Mother Emanuel AME Church but also the citizens of the city, the state of South Carolina and the nation.”
This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.