Empathy Goes With Donations to Victims of Kobe Earthquake : Relief: ‘We’ve been there,’ says a Reseda woman who brings in items for shipping. Gifts continue to come in from around the Southland.


A woman from Reseda, whose family is still living in a house heavily damaged in the Northridge earthquake, brought a carload of clothing, food and special treats to Little Tokyo to be forwarded to victims of last week’s deadly Kobe temblor.

And Long Beach mail carrier Yamira Ybarra spent her day off with her son, Jonathan, carting the items she had collected during her mail delivery route to Little Tokyo’s earthquake relief center.

On Thursday, the day after the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center turned one of its airy galleries into a makeshift collection center, Southern Californians from near and far brought everything from winter coats to boots and disposable diapers to pet food for strangers halfway around the world, whose plight they identified with.

“There are a lot of us in Reseda who really feel for the people in Kobe. We’ve been there,” said Marlene Glenn as she carried a box from her car to the center. She had already delivered three large plastic bags filled with clothes. Now she was delivering a care package that included not only such practical items as canned soups, coffee and toilet paper, but out of the ordinary things such as expensive paper napkins, colored candles and a packet of incense in elegant wrapping.


“The napkins would add a little dignity--and I thought they would appreciate the incense when they pray,” she said. “I’ve been reading about Buddhism.”

Inside the gallery, stacks of boxes--their contents neatly labeled in English and Japanese--awaited pickup by Nippon Express Inc. The Japanese moving company is hauling the goods free from the center to the warehouses of Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways at Los Angeles International Airport.

The two Japanese air carriers will transport the donations for free until Feb. 20, according to Akihiko Suzuki, an official of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Los Angeles.

In Kobe, Nippon Express will pick up the goods from Kansai International Airport and deliver them to the Kobe City Earthquake Relief Depot, which will distribute them to the victims, Suzuki said.


As he spoke, volunteers and staffers sorted donated items and packed them into boxes.

“Should I pack this jacket even though it is soiled?” asked Kimi Kawamura, an 83-year-old volunteer who was folding jackets.

“Yes,” said Miles Hamada, operations manager at the center. “If it’s not dirty, we should pack it.”



Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily at the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, 224 S. San Pedro St., Los Angeles.

What is needed, said center officials, are clean, warm clothing, blankets, large plastic garbage bags, portable toilets and tents. Relief workers in Japan have told officials they have sufficient food and water. For information, call (213) 680-2000.

Thus far, Southern Californians have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the quake victims. The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Japan American Society of Southern California together have received more than $600,000 in donations, officials said.

Some came from schoolchildren, such as 10-year-old Laura Worthington, of Sherman Oaks, who donated $25 from her allowance.


Numerous other organizations report smaller donation totals, ranging from $3,000 to $5,000.


How to Help

A number of local organizations have set up funds and/or donation centers to help victims of the Japanese earthquake. A partial list follows:


* American Red Cross

2700 Wilshire Blvd.

Los Angeles 90057

(800) 842-2200


* Salvation Army

900 West 9th St.,

Los Angeles 90015

(800) 725-9005


* California Community Foundation

Osaka/Kobe Earthquake Recovery Fund

606 S. Olive St., Suite 2400

Los Angeles 90014-1526


(213) 413-4042

* Japan America Society of Southern California

Kobe Relief Fund

505 S. Flower St., Level C


Los Angeles 90071

(213) 627-6217, Ext. 11

* World Vision

Japan Earthquake Relief


P.O. Box 1131

Pasadena, CA 91131

(800) 423-4200

* Operation USA


Japan Relief

8320 Melrose Ave., Suite 200

Los Angeles 90069

(800) 678-7255


* Japanese Village Plaza in Little Tokyo is accepting checks at Enbun Market, 124 Japanese Village Plaza, Los Angeles 90012. Checks should be made out to the American Red Cross, Japanese Relief Fund. (213) 620-8861


* For information about Japanese relatives and friends, call the Japanese Consulate at (213) 617-6700. The consulate cannot track down missing Japanese citizens but has an up-to-date list of fatalities. Phones are answered 24 hours a day in English and Japanese. The list of victims is also posted in the consulate at 350 S. Grand Ave., Suite 1700, Los Angeles 90071.

* The U.S. State Department is handling inquiries about U.S. citizens in Japan. Call the State Department’s Emergency Services office in Washington at (202) 647-7310 or (202) 647-7311.


* Local American Red Cross chapters are accepting inquiries from Southern Californians trying to get in touch with Japanese relatives in Kobe. Inquiries will be accepted only for parents, siblings, spouses and children with whom the inquirer has been in contact during the last year. Call (213) 739-5274 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.