Corporate Angels: September 11th Fund

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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the

September 19, 2001 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights


Helping Employees Cope With Grief

On September 11, Loida Noriega-Wilson reached

a friend at her New York City office. "She works north of the

World Trade Center area," Wilson says. The financial district,

some 20 blocks south of her friend’s office, was burning; some of

its buildings were crumpling. But Wilson’s friend was in no physical

danger. In fact, she told Wilson, it was "`business as usual’"

in her office.

In this case, says Wilson, principal in the Norwil Group, a


human resources firm, that was not a good thing. "It’s


Wilson quotes her friend as saying. "None of the supervisors are

even acknowledging it. They’re not even telling us what time we can

go home."

The message, says Wilson, was "We want you to get back to


The effect, she says, will be a day’s work completed more or less

as usual, and an office full of angry, resentful employees, who will

have little inclination ever to go the extra mile for their


or their company.

Wilson’s company works with employers large and small that are falling

short of maximum results because of personnel issues. She is a


of the University of South Florida (Class of 1978) and is studying

for a masters in human resources management at Rutgers. She speaks

on "Stress in the Workplace" at the fall meeting of the New

Jersey Department of Labor Central Region Employer Council on


September 26, at 8 a.m. at the Somerset Marriott. No cost. Call


Often, there are stressed employees in an office. Illness, a death

in the family, a troubled child, a parent in poor health, all of these

situations distract workers. Now, with the entire country trying to

come to grips with the unthinkable tragedy that occurred in a city

just up the road, a city to which so many area residents commute,

no workplace is spared.

"This is a magnification of what happens every day," she says.

"People are numb. They’re saying `I’ve turned on my computer,

but haven’t gotten much done.’" Grief, says Wilson, is "a

major, major stress."

When people are under stress, there are chemical changes in their

bodies. "Parts of the brain shut down," Wilson says. Employers

would be wise to understand this, both for the good of their workers,

and for the good of their businesses. She suggests steps for managers

who want to help their workers to get through this tragedy, and to

become fully productive as soon as possible.

Acknowledge that something has happened. It’s not business

as usual. Whether it’s giving time off to employees who want to help

with rescue efforts, allowing televisions to be on during memorial

services, or just spending time dropping by cubicles to see how


are coping, managers need to let their workers know that they are

aware that they are going through a difficult time.

Listen. In addition to talking to employees one-on-one,

encourage employees to speak with one another, perhaps by providing

a time and place in which they can do so.

Put big projects on the back burner. Energy levels are

apt to be low, and attention scattered, making this less than an ideal

time to kick off a major campaign.

Galvanize the troops. Wilson, who has spent portions of

her career working abroad, says "Americans step up to the plate.

That’s where we excel." The best thing employers can do is to

get their workers involved in helping out. "Right now," she

says, "people are feeling helpless. Get them involved in a blood

drive, a fund raiser." She speaks of a company that bought reams

of white ribbon to put on trees and cars, and of a New Brunswick car

wash that decided to donate a Saturday’s proceeds to the relief


"One thing about America as a culture," says Wilson.

"We’re a very giving people. That’s the spirit that flows through

the people."

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Corporate Angels: September 11th Fund

The outpouring of sympathy for victims of the September

11 tragedy has generated a wave of donations and some major news in

the nonprofit world. In a display of cooperation, various funding

groups have pooled their resources to form The September 11th Fund,

a central fund to help the victims of terrorist attacks in New York

City and elsewhere in the United States. Williams Gas Pipeline, which

has offices on Farber Road, gave $1 million as seed money.

The fund, which can receive donations from across the country, was

established on the very afternoon that the tragedy occurred. For


sake — and to cut costs — it will be administered by just

two groups, the United Way of New York City and New York Community

Trust. Yet it will be supported by local United Ways, United Way of

America, and the Council of Foundations, to which the Princeton Area

Community Foundation (PACF) belongs. Mercer’s United Way gave two

gifts of $25,000, one to the fund and one to the American Red Cross

of Central New Jersey.

"Since two very competent organizations are taking care of it

there, there is no reason to do it here as well," says Nancy

Kieling, director of the PACF. "We are recommending that people

use The September 11 Fund in New York."

Relief money will be allocated to emergency assistance agencies and

other nonprofit health and human services agencies. For instance,

donations might be used to help those who now have no income —

the World Trade Center’s shopkeepers, clerks, janitors who may have

survived but don’t have any work, says Kieling. "We haven’t even

seen the human devastation to it yet."

Send donations to The September 11th Fund, c/o United Way of New York

City, 2 Park Avenue, New York 10016 or go to

"Many of the greatest needs in this community will be related

to post traumatic stress syndrome," says PACF’s Kieling.

Top Of Page
Share Your Office

As of Friday, September 14, at least 10 New Jersey


had collectively offered 95 temporary workspaces to businesses and

workers displaced as a result of the terrorist attack on the World

Trade Center. They responded to a call from Prosperity New Jersey,

which has created WorkSpaceLink to bring together companies with extra

space with those that need it as a result of the terrorist attack.

Steve Sasala, president of Prosperity New Jersey, implemented

the program by sending out dozens of E-mail messages to board members,

corporate friends, and other business associates.

Companies with space to offer can do so by posting it on the


New Jersey website ( under the heading


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