Reaching out to the families of victims of the Sept. 11 tragedy, New Haven city employees are donating a portion of their salaries to help fund the relief effort in New York City.

Through a voluntary payroll deduction, city employees have donated over $23,000 to the New Haven Relief Effort Fund (N.H.R.E.F.), a nonprofit fund which will distribute the money among various New York and national charities. In addition, the New Haven Police Union and the New Haven Firefighter Union have agreed to share equally all maintenance charges related to the N.H.R.E.F.

“This is another example of the New Haven community stepping up to the plate and helping in this time of crisis,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “I would like to thank all the city employees who took part in this fund-raiser.”

City employees were offered the opportunity to set aside a portion of their paycheck to donate to the fund. Employees decided on the amount, if any, that they would be willing to donate.

“It’s an easy, convenient way for them to help out,” said James Foye, a spokesman for the mayor.

Although mostly city employees have given to the fund, the N.H.R.E.F. will accept donations from the entire New Haven community as well.

Thus far, the N.H.R.E.F. will give $10,000 to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, while the Red Cross and the Salvation Army will receive approximately $6,500 each.

“I think that at a time like this, it’s great that everyone, even everyday workers are trying to make a difference,” said Johnny Lu ’05.

The national Red Cross terrorism relief fund has already received over $500 million, American Red Cross spokesman Bill Blaul said Wednesday.

Over $1 billion in charitable donations related to the terrorist attacks will be given in total nationwide, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said.

Approximately 5,000 people were killed on Sept. 11, and many more lost their jobs or loved ones as a result of the attack.

All donations to the N.H.R.E.F. should be sent to First Union Bank at 205 Church St. in New Haven. Donations are tax-deductible. The fund will accept all donations for the next year.

“I think it’s a great idea to set up something like this,” said Patti Balbas ’05. “It’s something that’s right here that’s easily accessible, and it lets us help out all the victims in New York.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.