United Way

Submitted / The Outlook

Lake Martin Area United Way is one of hundreds of United Way chapters raising money for local charities. 

As federal investigators are in Butler County trying to determine the cause of Saturday's horrific crash that killed nine children including eight associated with the Tallapoosa County Girls Ranch, the Lake Martin Area United Way is managing donations.

United Way executive director Sharon Fuller said there is an outpouring of support for the Girls Ranch.

“There are several Go Fund Me accounts and we are taking donations too,” Fuller said. “Our donation drive is up on our website and if people don’t feel comfortable donating online they can drop donations off at our office. We will keep up with all the bookkeeping and no fee will be taken. All of it will go to the Girls Ranch.”

Montgomery attorney Beverly Howard is a former resident of the Girls Ranch and established a Go Fund Me account Sunday with a goal of $175,000 to help with the funeral expenses of the eight who died in the Girls Ranch vehicle, counseling for the remaining residents and other expenses at the ranch. By 11 a.m. Monday more than $213,000 had been raised and the goal had been extended to $300,000.

Fuller said Candice Gulley is still in a Montgomery hospital and her husband, mother, son and daughter have gotten hotel rooms.

“There are other expenses beyond funerals and at the ranch,” Fuller said.

Many in the South are used to caring for those in times of turmoil with food. Fuller said the Lake Martin Area United Way is taking on the role of managing those type donations too.

“At the moment, there isn’t a huge need for cooked meals,” Fuller said. “We don’t want to overrun them with food. At the moment the biggest need is for something along the lines of frozen casseroles, single-serve frozen meals teenagers like such as lasagna or mac and cheese. Those can be brought to our office on Main Street and we will get them to the Girls Ranch. We will also work with other organizations and restaurants who want to donate cooked food to work out a schedule for those who want to help.”

Fuller suggested individually packaged snack foods such as cookies and chips.

“We will be working on a list of other items that the ranch could use too,” Fuller said.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) said 17 vehicles were involved in the accident on Interstate 65 at mile marker 138 Saturday afternoon. Two of those were commercial vehicles and seven vehicles caught on fire including the vehicle from the Girls Ranch.

Monday a team of 10 investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived to work in coordination with ALEA to conduct a safety investigation.

According to the NTSB, the focus will be on vehicle technologies such as forward collision warning systems, CMV fuel tank integrity, motor carrier operations and occupant survivability.

The victims associated with the Girls Ranch range in age from 4 to 17 and their names have not yet been released. A father and his infant daughter died in another vehicle involved in the crash. Authorities confirmed them to be Cody Fox, 29, and Ariana Fox, who was only 9-months-old. They were from New Hope, Tennessee.

Cliff Williams is a staff writer for Tallapoosa Publishers.