Columbia County residents watching the aftereffects of Mother Nature's wrath on South Asia a week ago are reaching out to help in any way they can.
"We have gotten a lot of calls," said Birnie Florie, the executive director of the Augusta Red Cross. "There's a lot of interest in what people can do to help the victims of the tsunami."
Water is critical, as are food, clothing and medical care, Florie said. But he recommends monetary donations for those who wish to help. Water and other supplies can be purchased cheaper in Asia near the scene than they can be collected and shipped from the United States.
"It is almost impossible to get them over there," Florie said. "Water is obtainable and can be gotten in. The main thing is you need the cash to get it delivered."
Many area churches are banding together to offer support to tsunami victims.
"A lot of people just really didn't know how to respond," said the Rev. Roscoe Perry, the pastor of First Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Winfield. The Rev. Perry is organizing the church effort.
"My effort has been to get that information on how to respond to churches or anyone that wanted to."
On Jan. 16, the Rev. Perry is asking churches to hold a special collection earmarked for victims of the tsunami. All the funds will be donated to the American Red Cross.
Anyone interested in helping with the church relief effort should call 650-9676.
In addition to churches, local businesses also are holding special collections.
The Peppermill Restaurant, at 4461 Washington Road in Evans, is collecting funds for the Red Cross relief efforts. All funds collected during the month of January will be donated to three charities: Doctors Without Borders, International Red Cross and Action Against Hunger.
"Donate money. That is how you are going to help these people," said Pam Tucker, Columbia County's Emergency Services director. "Their immediate needs are going to change."
Tucker said the earthquake under the Indian Ocean more than a week ago and the resulting tsunami caused perhaps 150,000 deaths throughout South Asia. The number of deaths is equivalent to Columbia County's population plus half that figure, Tucker said.
All local Wal-Mart locations have drop boxes for monetary donations to go to the Red Cross along with a $2 million donation from the Wal-Mart Foundation, Tucker said. Donations also can be made at www.walmart.com or www.samsclub.com.
Mai Thai, an Evans Thai restaurant at 4272 Washington Road, is collecting funds to send to a family the owners know in Thailand, where the money will be passed along to the Thai government for relief.
Florie said anyone wishing to donate can visit those locations or call (800) HELP-NOW or visit www.arcaug.org.
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