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The Boston Globe

Opinion

SCOT LEHIGH

Turn grief into charity for Boston

We’re in the wait-and-see stage of the terror-attack investigation. We don’t know much yet, and some of what we thought we knew was wrong. It’s a time when there’s a huge disparity between the desire for information and the amount of reliable facts available, when public officials can offer little beyond comforting words and vows to bring to justice the person behind this deed.

So rather than speculate or fulminate, today I’d like to suggest a way to turn a day of tragedy and trauma into something that can help those whose lives were irrevocably altered in few seconds Monday afternoon. And a way to give all the people who want to help an outlet for their compassion and generosity.

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We’ve already seen a huge outpouring of concern. And it extends well beyond the Boston area. I’ve been heartened by the people who have e-mailed from distant states and countries just to say that they are thinking of Boston in this anguished hour. Or that they won’t be deterred from visiting our city because of this.

In the short term, needs will be met. But over the longer term, there’s more we can and should do. That’s why we should establish a charitable foundation — Patriots’ Purpose, perhaps — to be the focal point of those efforts. (On Tuesday evening, Mayor Menino and Governor Patrick announced The One Fund Boston, anchored by a $1 million gift from John Hancock, to help victims.) The foundation would have several goals.

First and foremost, it would aid those who need help as a result of the attacks. Three families have lost loved ones. Other victims have lost limbs. Some lives will never be the same. Many will need assistance as they go forward. What better way to come together as a community than to establish a fund to help them meet the special needs and overcome the hardships caused by injuries from the attack?

But the foundation could also help improve Boston. It might, for example, build or improve parks or pools or youth centers in the city’s neighborhoods. It might even offer college scholarships to Boston kids. It could also sponsor events for the community.

What would we need to make it work? Well, some high-profile, civic-minded leaders who are devoted to Boston, know how to get things done, and have an ability to raise money. So let’s put together a charitable foundation dream team.

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Bain Capital managing director Steve Pagliuca is a public-spirited citizen who, as co-owner of the Celtics, could bring his savvy and their star power to the cause. Amos Hostetter, who has already shown his deep commitment to Boston through the Barr Foundation, would be a huge addition. Bank of America’s Anne Finucane would bring big ability. From Fidelity, you’d want Abigail Johnson and Peter Lynch. Then there are academic stars like Gloria Larson, Bentley University’s charismatic leader, and Susan Hockfield, MIT’s former president. When he finishes his stint in Washington, Senator Mo Cowan could lend his considerable talents.

Advertising mogul-turned-philanthropist Jack Connors has already demonstrated this kind of civic leadership and commitment with Camp Harbor View. Carol Fulp, who formerly oversaw John Hancock’s charitable giving, would bring philanthropic experience — and connections to deep pockets, courtesy of her role on President Obama’s national finance committee. Chris Gabrieli has demonstrated indefatigability as one of Boston’s civic entrepreneurs.

Meanwhile, isn’t a certain Thomas M. Menino going to be looking for a worthy cause to engage his energies come January?

That quick list probably leaves out almost as much talent as it includes. No doubt many other Boston-area notables would want to be involved.

As important, thousands of everyday Bostonians would certainly want to donate and volunteer.

It would also let us channel our concern and sympathy into something large and lasting. And let us all feel that we’d reclaimed Patriots Day and our marathon from this horrific event by responding to unspeakable individual evil with committed collective good.

Scot Lehigh can be reached at lehigh@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GlobeScotLehigh.

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