The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin will be able to take about eight months of paid leave from her county job, thanks to the generosity of county employees.
Sybrina Fulton, who has worked at the Miami-Dade County housing authority for 23 years, collected $40,825 worth of donated vacation time, county records show. The paid time off is in addition to the nearly $100,000 the family raised on wepay.com and at rallies, which will be used to launch a criminal justice advocacy foundation in Trayvon's name.
The donated days are the latest in a mounting fortune in contributions that have amassed on both sides of the controversial case. With websites dedicated to Trayvon's grieving parents as well as to the man who killed him and now even for his attorney, funds gathered in the wake of the Feb. 26 slaying are expected to reach half a million dollars. Donors continue to reach into their pockets, even as each side criticizes the other's purpose and intent in seeking donations.
"They are using the money to continue the legacy of their son," said Michael Hall, a graphic designer and marketing specialist who helped launch the nonprofit Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation, which the parents created in March in response to their son's killing. "They didn't want a situation where people could say they were profiting off the loss of their son."
Hall said Trayvon's parents will become paid employees of the foundation, compensated for their time conducting speaking engagements and other advocacy work. He stressed that the foundation would keep Fulton and her ex-husband, Tracy Martin, at the levels of income they were making -- not higher.
Until now, the parents' extensive travel expenses have been paid by their attorney, Benjamin Crump, or whoever invited them to the event they attended, he said. They turned all checks they received over to the Miami Foundation, a pre-existing organization that is administering the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation's trust fund and will help establish a board of directors, review expenditures and conduct audits, he said.
The goal is to raise $1.5 million for programs such as teaching conflict resolution to teens.
The first order of business: a movement to repeal the Stand Your Ground laws that exist in Florida and other states. Fulton released a video Friday, timed for Mother's Day, on secondchancecampaign.org urging Americans to appeal to their respective governors to eliminate laws that offer increased immunity in self-defense cases.
Hall said the details have not yet been finalized, but Fulton would presumably not begin getting a salary or per diem from the foundation until after her paid county leave runs out. He said he doesn't know if she plans to leave her county job.
Last month the Miami-Dade County Commission passed a resolution sponsored by Bruno Barreiro, Barbara Jordan and Jose Diaz to allow county employees to donate vacation time to Fulton or Trayvon's aunt, Yolanda Knight Evans, a water and sewer customer-service representative. The $50,000 cap the commission set on the value of the time donated for each of the women was reached in two weeks, county spokeswoman Suzy Trutie said.
A similar measure was passed last year to help the families of two slain police officers.
Records show 192 county employees gave Fulton some of their hours, and 70 people donated to Knight Evans.
The donations for Fulton added up to 1,362 hours -- a total of 34 paid weeks off. Trayvon's aunt collected nearly nine weeks.
County records show Fulton, who earns $68,768 a year, used funeral leave, four weeks of accumulated sick leave and 60 hours of vacation after her son was killed by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. She took two days of furlough in compliance with her county contract.
Last week's pay period was the first that tapped into the bank of donated time.
Tracy Martin is a truck driver, and it's unclear whether he has been on paid or unpaid leave. He and Fulton were in London last week speaking at the University of London and were unavailable to comment.
"Don't forget there are two people who need to be taken care of here," Hall said. "A lot of the media focuses on Sybrina and forgets that Trayvon had a father, who lived here and co-parented."
Trayvon's family are not the only ones raising money.
Zimmerman raised $204,000 in three weeks with a PayPal account posted to a website. He spent about $50,000 before his defense lawyer ever learned of the fund's swelling balance, his attorney, Mark O'Mara, acknowledged.
O'Mara recently created a new fundraising site administered by a former IRS agent and registered with the Florida Division of Consumer Services. He told ABC News that he raised nearly $8,000 in the first few days the site was active.
The fund now also includes the $150,000 balance transferred from the original PayPal account Zimmerman had set up.
In a statement on his website, O'Mara said Zimmerman spent $7,000 on PayPal fees, $5,000 on bond, and $1,000 at the jail commissary and for phone cards. He also paid off existing debts and set up a secure living quarters while he awaits trial, the statement said, without offering dollar figures.
"Roughly a third of the balance remains liquid and in Mr. Zimmerman's possession for living expenses for the next few months," O'Mara said. "So far, none of the funds have been applied to legal expenses."