Blessings flow in wake of tragedy

Ja’Quinn, 8, (from left) and Bryan Wamer, 7, of St. George, look at the flowers placed in front of Emanuel AME Church on Wednesday.

Well-wishers across the globe have given Emanuel AME Church more than $2 million since its pastor and eight others were fatally shot during a Bible study there June 17 — the latest flicker of hope to emerge.

Dr. Norvel Goff, Emanuel’s interim pastor, said the unsolicited donations — which have come in addition to other funds that support the victims’ families and offer scholarships — will be used to develop new programs and to maintain the historic church building.

“Out of tragedy, God has shown us another door that has opened for us, and we are thankful,” he said Wednesday.

“This says that there is a reservoir of goodwill.”

Goff said the church’s Moving Forward campaign will help repair termite damage in the 124-year-old sanctuary, complete an ongoing project to add an elevator and maintain two houses the church owns. And they will help the church develop new programs to advocate for civil rights and economic justice.

“Beyond these four walls we need to have ministry and embrace diversity,” he said.

It’s just one of several funds created in the wake of the shootings — funds that have raised more than $8 million total to support families, scholarships, the church and other community initiatives.

The church also announced that attorney Wilbur Johnson of Young Clement Rivers law firm and accountants BDO USA would advise the church going forward.

“The same faith that brought us to the point of forgiveness in this horrific act of terrorism is the same faith that taught us we need to be good stewards,” Goff said. “It leads to greater resources and support.”

The legal and accounting help will allow church officials to focus more on spiritual rather than business matters. “I need to prepare my sermon for Sunday,” Goff said. “I don’t need to be weighed down.”

The church’s Moving Forward fund supports its work, while the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, run by the city, supported the victims’ families, by helping to defray burial costs. The Hope fund also has raised about $2.2 million, $270,000 of which soon will be spent to cover funeral and burial expenses. Once those bills are paid, the city will figure out how to distribute the rest to benefit the victims’ families and the church.

Meanwhile, The Beach Co. announced it has raised more than $40,000 among its employees and friends toward building a memorial to the nine victims.

Company president John Darby said its shareholders came up with the idea. The Beach Co.’s senior payroll administrator, Marva Bowser, acted as its liaison with Emanuel since she attends an Mt. Horr AME church in Hollywood, which had been led by one of the nine victims, the late Rev. Clementa Pinckney.

Goff said the company’s offer is one of many “random acts of kindness” the church has experienced. He supports the idea of a memorial, but the church, victims’ families and city are in the earliest stages of determining how to proceed.

Darby said the company is willing to help design, build or take a lead role in raising money for the memorial and will wait for guidance from Emanuel AME.

“We are here in whatever capacity they would like for us to be,” he said. “We told them we’re on their schedule. They’re still recovering.”

There are more than a half-dozen fundraising initiatives created in the wake of the tragedy, and the total number may be many times more. Richard Hendry, interim COO of the Coastal Community Foundation said, “Every time I hear of one (fund), I think, ‘I’ve never heard of that one.’ ”

And Goff announced Wednesday the creation of The Mother Emanuel-Rev. Clementa Pinckney Endowment Fund with a $50,000 donation from the National United Auto Workers’ Community Action Program.

Goff said potential donors should review the role of each of the funds when considering a gift.

Goff again thanked Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, law enforcement and the coroner and those working to counsel the victims’ families.

“We still solicit your prayers because this journey is one we have not been on before,” he said. “Evil cannot triumph if those of us of goodwill will stand up and do good.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.