Japantown organizes to help quake survivors


Representatives from more than 30 Japantown organizations met for a brainstorming session to decide how they can best help those suffering in Japan's multiple disasters.

"Cash donations are best right now. People want to donate clothing and food and whatnot, but they get hung up. There's no delivery system right now," said Allen Okamoto, a Japantown leader.

So far, Japantown's relief effort has raised more than $30,000 and 100 percent of the money will go directly to those in need in Japan. That's why a vacationing couple from Chicago stopped by to help out.

"One of the things I'd heard is that every dollar that we give here will end up there and I wanted to make sure that everything we gave ended up in the hands of the people who needed it," said Chris Boros from Chicago.

In Benicia, shoppers at one ACE hardware store also stopped by to do their part. Owner Gene Pedrotti set out the collection jars almost immediately after the earthquake struck.

In Benicia, shoppers at Pedrotti Ace Hardware on 830 Southampton Road also stopped by to do their part. Owner Gene Pedrotti set out the collection jars almost immediately after the earthquake struck and has a goal of raising $25,000, and the store will match any donation for a total of $50,000.

Through April, customers shopping at the store will be asked if they would like to donate money when they checkout at the register. People can either give cash or make a large donation with the check payable to "Red Cross - Japan Disaster," said Pedrotti.

"The Japanese are our neighbors. They are very kind and compassionate people. We share a lot with the Japanese, the least of which is earthquake problems. So, I think it's very easy to identify with the Japanese and their struggle," said Pedrotti.

"I've been to Japan and I pray for them every morning," said Joe Thuron from Benicia.

A group of Japanese pastors who were visiting California will return home to deliver their aid in person.

"It's not that much. It's not going to go that far, but even a couple days to provide some stuff to 20 or 30 people is a great encouragement," said World Venture Rev. John Houlette.

Much of the fundraising for Japanese relief is being done by large national organizations like the American Red Cross and Salvation Army. As of Monday afternoon, the Salvation Army reported they've collected nearly $1 million -- about $70,000 via text, the rest online.

Alternatively, Bay Area residents can also donate directly to the Red Cross by visiting the organization's website at www.redcrossbayarea.org or call (888) 4HELPBAY.

The Salvation Army is also responding to the disaster, which most badly damaged the city of Sendai, about 250 miles from Tokyo, according to the organization.

The Salvation Army has nearly 1,000 employees working throughout Japan and is also seeking donations for the response.

To donate, visit the organization's website at www.salvationarmyusa.org, call (800) SAL-ARMY, or text the word "Quake" or "Japan" to 80888 to donate $10.

Bay City News contributed to this report

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