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'The best way to assist families with dignity and grace is to give them direct financial assistance': A Q&A with Allison Lutnick, Director of Disaster Relief Operations, Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund

September 13, 2021

Headshot_Allison_Lutnick_Cantor_Fitzgerald_Relief_Fund_2_croppedOn September 11, 2001, 658 Cantor Fitzgerald and sixty-one Eurobrokers employees lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund was founded on September 14 with a $1 million personal donation from Cantor Fitzgerald chairman and CEO Howard W. Lutnick, whose brother, Gary, was among those killed. The fund raised and distributed over $180 million for more than eight hundred families — including 932 children — of the victims of that tragedy; the fund has since expanded its focus and distributed $357 million to date in support of families impacted by acts of terrorism, emergencies, and natural disasters, as well as direct service charities and wounded service members.

Allison Lutnick, Howard Lutnick's wife, set up the Cantor Fitzgerald Crisis Center and ran support groups for the thirty-six Cantor women who were pregnant on 9/11 and the fiancées of employees who were killed. PND asked Lutnick, now the director of relief operations for the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund, about the lessons of 9/11, the fund's evolution over the last two decades, its annual Charity Day event, and corporate partnerships. Here is an excerpt:

Philanthropy News Digest: What were the goals of the Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund at the time of its inception, and how has it changed over time? 

Allison Lutnick: The Cantor Fitzgerald Relief Fund (CFRF) was created within three days of 9/11 solely to help take care of the 658 Cantor families who had lost loved ones in the attack. We provided financial, emotional, and legal support to our families. Howard gave the families ten years of health insurance and 25 percent of the firm's profits for five years.

As time passed, the CFRF expanded its mission to include, among other things, providing direct financial assistance to military families and victims of natural disasters.  

We learned that the best way to assist other families with dignity and grace is to give them direct financial assistance. We also witnessed the resilience of young moms — we learned that in the face of tragedy, they have no choice but to raise themselves up and carry on for the sake of their children, to bring happiness into their lives despite loss and pain. So, we focus our resources on families with young children that are financially struggling as a result of a trauma in their life....

Read the full Q&A with Allison Lutnick.

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