Local residents join efforts to help tsunami victims

Rodika Tollefson, KP News People around the world have been watching in horror over the last month as the death toll from the Dec. 26 earthquake and tsunami in Asia soared to nearly 300,000. The disaster at first appeared too daunting even for large, experienced aid agencies. But while the scope of it can barely be comprehended or described in simple words, the tragedy has shown a glimpse into the human spirit — that is, the desire to help the desperate and the devastated with a blind eye to geography, skin color, faith, military might or government structure.
Local efforts KPVI will collect items through the end of February at the Fire District 16 headquarters in Key Center, Moreland & Sons auto repair shop, Peninsula Market at Lake Kathryn, the Home Store, KP Lutheran Church in Lakebay, and at a special trailer parked in the parking lot of the Purdy shopping center. Needs include clothes, towels, sheets, fabric, blankets, and new undergarments. For information, call 884-4551 or 884-4407. You can also donate to the local chapter of Red Cross.
Thousands of miles away from the devastation, on the Key Peninsula, the plight of those affected couldn’t seem further. But that didn’t stop the local community’s efforts to help the victims as if they were simply across the street. “It renews your faith in the American people, it shows you what good hearts they have,” said Judy Hardin as she sorted clothes outside the Key Peninsula food bank on a nippy January day. Hardin and her husband, Ty, were part of a small group of volunteers who spent long hours over three or four days sorting through clothing and supply donations that poured into the KP Community Center. Considering the very short notice, it was an incrdible outpouring of support. “I wanted to do something to help; we asked what can we do in the community, and the community just came through,” said Cristi Watson, KPCS executive director. Five days after the tsunami, Watson and her helpers put up flyers, called other church and group leaders, and asked everybody to spread the word. Her deadline? The following Wednesday, Jan. 5, at 4 p.m. Wednesday morning, barrels and boxes filled with everything from clothes, shoes and blankets to medical supplies were being sorted and loaded in a moving van, donated to the center by Hill Moving Co. several months prior. “I figured it was a good cause so it was worth it,” said Sharon Rikansrud, who spent a few days to gather items from her home, and with husband John dropped off a small load on the way to the seniors’ lunch at the center. The local ward of the Latter Day Saints Church was among those who responded to the KPCS call. In two days, church members gathered several dozen blankets, quilts, hygiene kits (tooth paste, soap, hand towels etc.), along with diapers, clothes and medical supplies. “It was a wonderful response,” said Virda Lawrence, organizer of the church’s humanitarian activities. By the time the KPCS van made its way to World Concern in Lynnwood just a week after the flyers were made, it was filled. Never mind that the trip took double or triple time on the icy roads. The volunteers who made the delivery were in good spirits. So were the students at Vaughn Elementary on a recent Friday, when their school handed over a check for $2,507.41 to Brian Comb, a representative of Faith International. The money was collected by students in every classroom through a coin drive. School counselor Laurel Young found out that one of the parents was planning a trip through Faith International to build and rebuild orphanages in Sri Lanka that were affected by the calamity, and suggested the idea. The help efforts continue. Key Peninsula Veterans Institute members also started a donation drive and will hold it through the end of February. Clothes, blankets, shoes, sheets, and other items are being collected for delivery to World Concern, and can be dropped off at several area businesses. “The people are very generous. This community is noted for that,” said the group’s Eileen Young. “We are collecting as much as we can. It could have been us, here, instead of them.”