Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

November 12, 2013

Local help for typhoon victims

Tim Preston
The Independent

RUSSELL — Maria Lemaster put her mother on a plane for her home in the Philippines only two weeks before a “super typhoon” struck the island chain, leaving countless dead and many more without a home or basic resources such as food or water.

“I was worried sick,” said Lemaster, speaking about her motivation to join forces with friends to cook up a batch of goodies for a Saturday bake sale to benefit Typhoon Haiyan victims in their native country. Fortunately, she said, her family members live in an area that “got the tail end of it with wind and rain,” but were unharmed when the storm passed. “I have talked to my mom, my sisters and my cousins. They’re all good. Thank goodness.”

Looking at images of the typhoon’s devastation, including lifeless bodies, Lemaster said she knew she had to try to help.

“I looked at the videos and pictures on my computer and I thought, ‘What can I do to help these people?” she said. “I can cry all day, but it won’t help. So my friends and I decided to do something.”

Lemaster, the owner and operator of Maria’s Manila Asian Market on Diederich Boulevard, contacted Filipino friends in the Tri-State and cooked up a plan for the sale.

“I will be making all kinds of desserts, and eggrolls, and we will also have noodles. I will also cook some other dish, like adobo,” she said.

The bake sale will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday and continue throughout the day, Lemaster said, adding they will also be accepting donations of food, clothing blankets and other items useful for storm survivors.

Lemaster said she will utilize a Cleveland-based company called Forex to transport the disaster-relief supplies. She explained she originally contracted with the courier company, which deals exclusively between the United States and the Philippines, as a community service for local people to send “care packages” to their families in the Philippines. Several area churches have contacted her in recent days, she said, and will also use the service to help avoid hefty fees for postal deliveries.

“It really touched me that local churches contacted me and want to help,” she added.

Lemaster estimated between 100 and 125 Filipinos live in the immediate area, “and even more than that are around Paintsville.”

The market owner said it is difficult to imagine what it is like to live through such a natural disaster, adding her appreciation for U.S. Marines who have arrived on the islands and are working.

“I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since it started,” Lemaster said, noting a second typhoon has since hit the Philippine shorelines. “They are used to tropical weather, but they didn’t anticipate this. They’re calling it a super typhoon with 195-mph winds.

As of Tuesday, the death toll was 1,774.

For more information, call Lemaster at (606) 388-4088.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com.