Sussex County residents reach out to tsunami victims

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:55

    SUSSEX COUNTY-Amrminder Multanui is from India, and so lately people keep asking him what they can do to help the millions in India and Southeast Asia left homeless by the Dec. 26 tsunami that took at least 140,000 lives. And Multanui, who is from the Punjab region of the huge Indian subcontinent, tells them he doesn't know. Sussex County does not have a sizeable Asian community, but there are many Indians like Multanui, many of whom work, as he does, in gas stations and convenient stores. Multanui says that many of the customers at the Sunrise Mart and Gulf station on Route 94 in Vernon where he works ask him about the devastation. "The Punjab is in the north of the country, so I actually don't know anyone who was affected by the disaster," he said. "But I am like everyone else in that I would like to help in any way that I can," he said. "People come in for gas and they feel very bad about what has happened and they ask me where they should send money. Some people have even told me that they would like to adopt children who have been orphaned," he said. "I wish that I could give them answers, but I am just like everyone else, wondering where I should send money," he added. Others are equally eager to help and ignorant of how. Locally, the Sussex County Chapter of the American Red Cross is coordinating relief efforts. "We are responding to the needs of nearly one million people in the wake of this terrible tragedy," said Pat Day, Executive Director of the charity's Sussex County Chapter. "Our committed involvement includes much needed supplies such as hygiene kits and tents, plastic sheeting, as well as the deployment of internationally experienced, trained relief workers. The supplies are ready to be shipped to a specifically designated area near the region so they can be mobilized quickly as they are needed." Local churches, many on their own, have taken collections to contribute to the effort. Many Catholic churches were among them. "We collected on Saturday and Sunday this weekend and will probably continue to do so in the coming weeks," said Terry Martin, director of religious education at Our Lady of Fatima in Highland Lakes. "Ongoing collections taken at the United Methodist Church in Vernon will be sent directly to UMCOR who act as a relief agency on behalf of all connected United Methodist churches," said church secretary Nancy Robinson. As the disaster hit at the end of the year, the outreach money left at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Sparta was not a lot, but Fr. Orion Davis was more than happy to give what was left. "We only had $700 left of our outreach money, but it has been donated as a parish so in that way every member has in some way contributed to the relief effort," he said. "I made flyers available at the services letting people know that if they wanted to help that they should send a check to the Episcopal Relief and Development Agency," he added. According to Christi Rikicki, director of development for Northwest New Jersey Red Cross, as of Jan. 3 the American public together with several corporate and philanthropic supporters had donated $79.2 million to the Red Cross for this relief fund. "Americans are extremely generous but have shown unprecedented generosity in this relief effort, so far the Red Cross has been able to send $30 million in relief, $25 million of that is food relief and the additional $5 million is going for hygiene packs and tents," she said. The Red Cross advises those seeking information about U.S. citizens living or traveling in the southern Asia region to call the U.S. Department of State at 1-888-407-4747. It also advises continuing to try to make contact through normal means of communication, including the Internet. "There is a tremendous outpouring of support from our community for victims of this disaster and we are touched by the generosity of our neighbors and the faith our community has in the Red Cross," said Day. "When the magnitude of this tragedy was becoming painfully clear, our phones began ringing off the hook with people wanting to help. We were overwhelmed, but not surprised, by the compassion our community has expressed. "We are not surprised because it is the community's on-going commitment to the Red Cross that enables us to respond to disasters in our own backyard, whether it's a disaster that affects one family or a thousand families. Today, a family of five children came into our office to donate nearly $100 of their Christmas money." Day stated the most meaningful way to help the victims of this tragedy is to make a financial contribution to the International Response Fund. Your donation will allow the Red Cross to purchase relief items directly in the region, eliminating the costs of shipping and transport from the United States. "There are three ways to send money, however the fastest is defiantly an online donation then a phone donation by credit card and lastly a check by mail," said Rikicki.