Offers pour in to help Cleveland women freed from captivity

CLEVELAND Sat May 11, 2013 6:02pm EDT

1 of 3. Deborah Knight (C), grandmother of Michelle Knight, talks on the phone outside of kidnap victim Gina DeJesus' home in Cleveland, Ohio, May 10, 2013. Michelle Knight, freed earlier this week as the longest held of four captives in a dungeon-like Cleveland house, was discharged from the hospital on Friday, MetroHealth Medical Center said. It was unclear where Michelle, 32, was headed after she was released from the hospital.

Credit: Reuters/Matt Sullivan

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CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Offers of help are pouring in from around the world for three Cleveland women who were kidnapped and held in captivity for a decade, with people offering cash, furniture and even use of a vacation home to help them rebuild their lives.

Three members of the Cleveland City Council have set up a fund to provide financial assistance to Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32.

"It's a big healing process that is beginning," Councilwoman Dona Brady said on Saturday.

Since it was established earlier this week, the fund has raised more than $50,000, said Cleveland Councilman Brian Cummins, who helped arrange the Cleveland Courage Fund, which is administered by a non-profit organization.

Ariel Castro, a 52-year-old former school bus driver, has been arrested and charged with kidnapping and raping the three women while keeping them locked up in a rundown Cleveland home.

DNA tests released on Friday identified Castro as the father of Berry's 6-year-old daughter, who was born in captivity.

The Cuyahoga County prosecutor also plans to seek murder charges, which could carry the death penalty, against Castro because police say there is evidence Knight suffered forced miscarriages.

Berry and DeJesus, along with Berry's daughter, left the hospital earlier this week and have been reunited with their families. Knight, who is estranged from some of her family members, according to her grandmother, was discharged from the hospital on Friday and went into seclusion.

Knight was kidnapped in 2002 at the age of 20; Berry in 2003 the day before her 17th birthday; and DeJesus in 2004, when she was 14. During their captivity, police said, the women endured beatings, rapes and at times confinement in ropes and chains.

Berry told police that her escape on Monday had been her first chance to break free in the 10 years she was held, seizing an opportunity during Castro's momentary absence. With the help of neighbors, she and her daughter broke free, and police freed the other two women.


Cummins said the fund for the three women had received donations from people across the United States, as well as Canada, France and Australia.

The money will not go directly to the victims, but be distributed to organizations to help the women pay for therapy, doctor's visits, housing and other expenses, Cummins said.

City officials said they were working to respond to a flood of emails with offers of assistance from companies, businesses and individuals.

Business owners have offered free healthcare, beauty and spa services and furniture, said Johanna Hamm, a City Council administrative official.

One offer was an all-expenses-paid stay at a lakeside vacation home, she said.

A Cleveland pizzeria said it planned to donate all the money from its sales on Thursday to the Cleveland Courage Fund. Workers at Angelo's Pizza also said they intended to give their hourly wages that day.

In a message posted on the fund's Facebook page, one woman said she hoped the women would one day recover from their horrific ordeal.

"If everyone donated just one dollar, it would make a difference in these girls' lives," said June Barter Green. "Maybe someday they can live a normal life."

(Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Peter Cooney)

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Comments (3)
what kind of stupid is it that the victims don’t get the money. what a crock of political bs. give them the money. do it now.

May 11, 2013 9:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
stephan1947 wrote:
Shalom & Erev tov…this sounds marvellous…but my hope (and, likely that of thousands of others wishing to help) is that the dollars will be carefully DOCUMENTED and MONITORED, and not go toward the unjustified salaries some ‘non-profits’ receive. In other words, ALL of the funds MUST be used for the benefit for the three women and the child. Moreover, I hope NONE of the women allow themselves to be exploited by mediasaurs who, wanting to maximize their profitable greed, will propose ‘film/book deals’ etc. They are NOT interested in the well-being of the women and the child, but only in their bank accounts. One example is the ‘docudrama’ fraud revolving around Casey Anthony, which outright distorted and fabricated ‘evidence’ to satisfy the Queen of Grief Porn and her knuckle-walking acolytes. (That Ms Anthony was INNOCENT was never cited.)
STEPHAN BOROWSKI PICKERING / Chofetz Chayim benAvraham

May 11, 2013 9:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
All donations made to the fund will go to a nonprofit organization, which will disburse the funding to benefit the survivors and their families.

Examples of the broad range of assistance and services anticipated to be provided include but are not limited to: clothing, food, housing, house wares, equipment, appliances, transportation, fuel, utilities, mental, physical health and beauty services, travel, recreation (including hotels) education, training, etc…

The fund is expected to be working with the women and their families through a designated representative of their choosing in identifying their needs and having them addressed equitably given the abilities of the funding that becomes available. No needs have yet been communicated to the fund and we are working with the Office of the Ohio Attorney General’s Charitable Law Section who is also in contact with victim’s services and the FBI.

The Cleveland Foundation will not assess fees on this fund, so all money raised will go to help survivors and their families. Fund Advisors receive no compensation nor will funds be used to pay any salaries.

NOTE: Under IRS rules, when funds are donated directly to individuals, the recipients must pay taxes on that money. When donors give through the Cleveland Foundation, the tax liability is removed from the families.

May 11, 2013 12:57am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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