RI nightclub fire memorial group hires fundraiserBy MICHELLE R. SMITH , Associated Press
Feb. 14, 2014 12:14 PM ET
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — A year after announcing plans for a permanent memorial at the site of a 2003 nightclub fire that killed 100 people, the foundation working to build it is struggling to raise money, but its president says she's optimistic now that they've hired a professional fundraiser on the eve of the fire's 11th anniversary.
"We were skeptical about spending money that we should be putting toward the project, but essentially we may not have a project if we don't get the money," Gina Russo, president of The Station Fire Memorial Foundation, told The Associated Press this week. "None of us have that kind of experience — to raise $1 million, $1.5 million."
The group has been working for years to build a memorial at the site of the Feb. 20, 2003, fire in West Warwick, which happened when pyrotechnics for the band Great White set fire to flammable foam that lined the inside of The Station nightclub.
A temporary memorial featuring handmade crosses, photographs and personal mementos was set up, but the group has been working to build something permanent that will honor the dead, the more than 200 injured, first responders and those who helped care for those affected.
After securing ownership of the land in 2012, the group released plans for the permanent memorial on the fire's 10th anniversary last year. Since then, fundraising has been sluggish. The foundation estimates it needs to raise $1.4 million to build and maintain the memorial. While it expects much of the materials and labor will be donated, it still has only around $200,000 in the bank as of this week.
Russo says the fundraiser, Daniel Barry, has extensive experience working with nonprofits and religious groups and is doing the work at a "greatly reduced price." She says so far there are no plans to scale back the memorial, "unless this gentleman comes back and tells us he doesn't see that the community is behind it."
She said Barry will do an analysis to learn what materials and labor are being donated, compile lists and meet with possible donors and other steps.
"He's going to be key for us, I think, in the next couple months," she said.
The annual memorial service will be held Sunday at Warwick City Hall. The gathering is usually done at the fire site, but that closed in the fall so that crews could take the initial steps to start construction. Russo said she expects construction will start in earnest in March or April, when the ground thaws.