Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 17, 2013

Cooking up love, support

Local Filipino community raises $3,66.89 for disaster relief

Lana Bellamy
The Independent

RUSSELL — A bake sale of sweet Filipino treats coupled with classic Southern recipes kicked off the first fundraising event by the Filipino community to raise disaster relief following Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction of the Philippine Islands.

Maria’s Manila Asian Market hosted the sale on Saturday, and customers, friends and passersby stopped in to make donations with or without purchasing desserts.

Members of the Filipino community from Grayson to Flatwoods came together during a tragic time for their homeland to help in any way possible.

Cupcakes with cherries, cookies, fudge and an assortment of delicacies stretched across long tables outside the shop, where people eagerly lined up. Some of the volunteers stood beside the road with signs and a donation bucket for drivers unable to stop at the sale. A young girl waving a bright Filipino flag welcomed cars as they rolled into the small parking lot.

Market owner Maria Lemaster, who is from the Philippine capital of Manila, said although she knew collections here will not compare to the millions of dollars already given by the U.S. government, it was personally important for her and others to know they doing what they can to help their loved ones.

“It’s part of a healing process for many of us,” Lemaster said.

She said the amount raised from the event was $3,666.89, including independent donations.

Rhea Allison from Grayson lived on Camotes Island, four hours from the severely hit city of Tacloban, which she said was very poor and finally received federal aid on Saturday.

The storm hit Tacloban and every major city going south along the east coast of Leyte. Her family owns two homes, one in the city and one on the island, and were not left homeless after the storm destroyed their island residence.

“Not a day has gone by since it happened that I haven’t cried,” she said with tear-filled eyes.

Allison said she fears the Philippines will never be the same, given it is a Third World nation and what little resources it had are gone.

“If you think about it, Katrina happened eight years ago here in the U.S. and they’re still cleaning up. Who knows if the Philippines will ever be back to normal?” she said, referring to how the country’s poverty rate makes rebuilding difficult.

In addition to being a central hub for donations, the Russell market has become a place where Filipinos can lean on one another to grieve, share stories or simply escape the stress of the devastation.

“We all just feel so helpless,” Lemaster said. “Where we are so far away and don’t have many resources to give, we’re just trying to do whatever we can.”

Lemaster and Allison emphasized the importance of choosing a credible charity in the Philippines to give the money.

“We have a democracy, but our government is known for being corrupt,” Allison said. “We just made a joke inside about how we heard 10 million pesos were donated and, oh, maybe 5 million will actually reach people in need.”

Of course, the joke was more cynical than funny to those at the market. Lemaster said she has spent hours background checking and legitimizing various charities she believes can be trusted. She recently opened an account with City National Bank where she will be able to directly wire money to the Philippines once she chooses a charity.

Though this was the group’s first community fundraiser, it will not be the last. Lemaster said organizers are planning a dance benefit in Russell at month’s end.

To donate to the cause, visit the market at 1564 Diederich Blvd. or call (606) 388-4088.

LANA BELLAMY can be reached at lbellamy@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2653.