- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 7, 2003

A second round of checks was sent yesterday to relatives of the Washington-area sniper victims from a fund that has grown to $445,000 on thousands of donations from across the country.
The Victims' Rights Foundation distributed 14 checks for $11,428.57 each to the families of victims of the October shootings. The families have received roughly $30,000 each from the fund, including payments of $18,500 made in November.
The foundation's president, Gregory Wims, said 2,217 donations to the fund have come from most states and Canada, ranging from several thousand dollars to three payments for $1.
Students at St. Elizabeths School in Rockville sent $300; Oliver Ames High School in Easton, Mass., sent $223 raised during a lunch- period raffle, and Crown Capital Petroleum donated $25,000, money from a portion of gas sales at 63 of Crown's pumping stations in December.
Nelson Rivera said he hasn't gone back to his landscaping job since his wife, Lori Ann Lewis-Rivera, was killed at a Kensington gas station Oct. 3. His 3-year-old daughter often asks him where her mother is, he said.
"It has been very hard for me and my daughter, but I know this will help make our lives a little bit easier," Mr. Rivera said, fighting back tears.
Several funds were established after 10 persons were killed and three wounded in Maryland, Virginia and the District during three weeks in October. Montgomery County distributed $80,000 to families from a reward fund last fall, while the United Way divided $115,000 among victims' relatives Dec. 31.
The Victims' Rights Foundation's guidelines for the fund also include a liquor store clerk wounded Sept. 14 in Silver Spring but not two men shot in Clinton earlier that month. Victims shot in Alabama, Louisiana and Georgia before the October spree also were excluded.
Mr. Wims said in November that the foundation set its fund-raising guidelines in October, before the earlier crimes were linked to the suspects. Most donors had only the victims shot from Oct. 2 to Oct. 22 in mind when they gave, he said.
The foundation has also set up a fund with the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce to benefit the two Clinton victims, Muhammad Rashid and Paul LaRuffa, Mr. Wims said. The United Way fund and $73,000 raised by the Salvation Army for sniper victims include Mr. LaRuffa and Mr. Rashid.
The Victims' Rights Foundation will accept donations through the end of January.
"This doesn't replace a loved one, it doesn't take away the pain, but it shows the community cares," Mr. Wims said.

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