Community

Tsunami of sympathy helps Japanese women

Japanese Women’s Club members Toni Reffitt, Moeko Seim, Tokiko Blake, Chizue McIlwain, Motoko Dupalo, Yumiko Walker, Jeannie Ellison and Sonoko Rhodes stand outside Walmart collecting donations for tsunami victims.  - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Japanese Women’s Club members Toni Reffitt, Moeko Seim, Tokiko Blake, Chizue McIlwain, Motoko Dupalo, Yumiko Walker, Jeannie Ellison and Sonoko Rhodes stand outside Walmart collecting donations for tsunami victims.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

Though they nearly reached their $5,000 goal in just two days, members of the Japanese Women’s Club (Shakunage-Kai) continued with their table outside Walmart throughout the week to raise more money for tsunami victims in Japan.

According to club member Sonoko Rhodes, members donated about $2,000 to the cause themselves and on Friday and Saturday, they picked up an additional $2,500 with a table set up outside the superstore in Oak Harbor.

Rhodes is originally from Okinawa, Japan and said most of the club members have family and friends still living in the country.

“Most of our families are fine, which is a relief for us,” Rhodes said, “but we have to take care of each other and help rebuild. The Japanese need a lot of prayers for future generations.”

Club member Motoko Dupalo said the main reason the group was established decades ago on the island was for support.

The Japanese Women’s Club wanted to raise at least $5,000 to send to Uwajimaya located in Seattle.

Uwajimaya, a well-known specialty Asian grocery store chain, is collecting money to donate to tsunami victims and representatives said they’ll match any contribution up to $5,000. The money will then be given to Peace Winds America, a nonprofit disaster preparedness and response organization that has been aiding people in northeastern Japan through contributions of food and temporary shelter.

Rose said while manning the donation booth she was impressed by the community’s willingness to give. She said she was especially touched by the owner of Coupeville’s Action Sign & Graphics, Kevin Tinker, who donated a sign for the women to advertise their fundraiser. Additionally, she recalled a young boy who came to the table with his piggy bank and donated the entirety of his toy fund.

“I’m overwhelmed by the local people’s generosity,” Rose said. “People are just so nice.”

Currently about 40 women belong to the Japanese Women’s Club.

In addition to fundraising, the group participates in local parades, hosts sushi nights at the senior center, visits nursing homes, plans New Year’s celebrations and meets with other club chapters among other duties. The club is led by president Ai Koehler.

For information about donating to the club’s efforts, call Rhodes at 675-6529.

 

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