Moore tornado relief: Where did your donation money go?

MOORE, Okla. - May 20, 2013 was a day that is forever imprinted in the minds of residents of Moore. Many of them watched as the tornado came in with a fury.

"I looked to the right and there it was and things started falling out of the sky," said tornado survivor Larry Jernigan.

The EF-5 tornado took 25 lives and destroyed 1,200 homes.

"The neighborhood had looked like a bomb had gone off," said tornado survivor Alise Newby.

BEFORE AND AFTER: Satellite imagery shows what Moore looked like before and after the tornado

VIDEOS: Aerial video and stories in the days after the tornado hit Moore

Many of you showed your support and donated money.

We gave to Oklahoma natives who took the stage to raise money. Blake Shelton organized a concert that aired on NBC and racked in $5.2 million.

Moore native Toby Keith hosted a concert too. It brought in $2 million.

So where did all that money go?

It went to the United Way of Central Oklahoma into the Tornado Relief Fund.

The concerts along with other donations brought in $20 million to the relief fund.

Now a year later, the 2NEWS Investigators pored over how the dollars were spent.

We found $1.4 million or just seven percent went to immediate needs, items such as hygiene kits, clothing, food and gas.

Another $2.9 million, 13 percent, went to constructing and repairing homes.

Another $3.6 million, 18 percent, went to long-term needs, like mental health.

Then there were several smaller donations to individual non-profits.

For example, $22,000 went to buy new girl scout uniforms and supplies lost in the storm.

"I don't think it was a necessity," said Newby, who lost her home in the tornado.

A grassy lot is all that remains where her house once stood. After starting over herself, she questioned how some of the donations were spent.

"Girl Scouts of America is a big enough organization they probably could've handled doing that themselves," said Newby.

But that's not all, the 2NEWS Investigators found only $9 million of the $20 million had been spent, that's less than half.

The other $11 million that was donated is still sitting in the bank.

"It makes we wonder, well, what are they doing with those funds? What are they holding onto it for, if it was intended for the tornado victims?," said Newby.

We had some of those same questions.

"The one thing about immediate needs is because that is the thing that is so visible that a lot of help and a lot of money comes into that quickly," said Shane Wharton, treasurer of the board for the United Way of Central Oklahoma.

Wharton says the Red Cross of Oklahoma focuses on immediate needs like food, water and shelter so the United Way of Central Oklahoma has a different role. It focuses more on long-term needs.

"There have been studies that show that, sometimes the issues may not show up for two or three years later for some folks. In particular, the folks that were responding, the police officers and firemen," said Wharton.

Newby says she'd like to see the remaining dollars spent on schools.

"Donating to the Moore Public School system so they can get shelters in their schools," said Newby.

Plus, Newby would like to see services, such as counseling for families that moved away from Moore. The Newby's now lives in Norman.

"We didn't stay with the school system here in Moore so it really wasn't made available to us, publicly at least," she said.

The United Way of Central Oklahoma says it is looking for those people that still need help. It is conducting an assessment right now to help decide how to spend the remaining $11 million.

We checked with the Red Cross of Oklahoma and found it has spent or committed $48 million out of the $52 million it raised - 92 percent of its funds.

Thirty-one percent went to immediate needs while 69 percent went to long-term costs.

The United Way of Central Oklahoma expects to have all the money committed within a year.

The 2NEWS Investigators will continue to track just how those dollars are spent.

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