SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- An iconic part of San Francisco's Chinatown took a big hit during the recent storms. Many of the beloved red paper lanterns hanging over Grant Avenue were destroyed from the hail and strong winds.
"It's a downpour that we never suspected that would tear the red lanterns in shreds," Eva Lee, the Chinatown Merchants Association board of director, told ABC7 News. "As you can see, they're in pretty bad shape."
The group said they had to take down an entire block of the lanterns because they were so damaged. The ones still hanging look tattered and torn. They are now asking the community for donations to help replace the delicate lanterns. They've partnered with the nonprofit BeChinatown and launched this GoFundMe.
"We really need community support," Jenny Chan, the associate director of the Chinatown Merchants Association, said.
Chan said each strand of lanterns, including the cost of labor to install, costs roughly $1,000. And they need to replace three blocks worth of them. She's hoping people will "Adopt a Lantern" for $150 or whatever people can manage.
"Any amount, any support is very helpful," Lily Lo, the co-founder of BeChinatown, said.
It's a cost, they say, is worth it.
"The red lanterns are a symbol of love and hope, and actually, prosperity," Lee said.
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Since the lanterns were first installed a decade ago, they have also functioned as an extra layer of security for those who live and work in Chinatown.
"Our community experienced a lot of Asian hate in the last two years, and a lot of the residents in the SRO, they really like taking evening strolls," Chan said, "But it could get really dark in the alleys and in the streets, and they really enjoy coming out because the lanterns add a sense of safety because they're lit up at night."
The lanterns are also a big draw for visitors looking for that perfect, San Francisco photo op.
"With all these lanterns, I notice more tourists," Lo said, "And people even getting married, they take a picture with the lantern. It's very nice."
Chan said their goal is to replace all the lanterns before the summer travel rush.
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"I mean, can you imagine Grant Avenue without lanterns for the tourists?" Chan said. "We have a lot of challenges in our tourist season already, so yeah, hopefully we'll get them done before the summer."
But the group said that won't be possible without community support.
"Everyone knows these iconic red lanterns, so if they would like, they can go to GoFundMe and make a donation," Lee said of the community. "We would be very happy, and we're working out details for a raffle prize, and they can look at our website for more details."
Chan said some of the donors will win a community dinner with Chef Martin Yan and Miss California. She said tax deductible donations can be made to 127 Waverly Street, San Francisco, California 94108.
To make a donation, visit the GoFundMe site here.
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