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Tsunami relief efforts under way in Carson

September 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
People in Southern California with ties to American Samoa are anxiously awaiting word from loved ones, and already, many members of the local Samoan community are organizing donation and relief efforts.A food and clothing drive was under way at the Samoan Congregational Christian Church of South Los Angeles in Carson on Wednesday. They've been accepting clothes and nonperishable food items to be shipped to the victims of the tsunami.

People have been dropping off donations all day long.

"I donated clothes, wheelchairs, food, blankets, everything," said Queen Foisia, a relief donor.

"A lot of tragedy out there so we're just coming together and trying to get all the goods together to send back home to help everybody out," said Debbie Mailo, a relief donor.

For Kennedy Mailo, who organized the relief effort at the church, the outpouring of support helps to provide him some comfort in the wake of the tsunami that left several of his family members in Samoa counted among the dead.

"My nephews, a few of them, distant cousins and older generation uncles and aunts that couldn't get out on time, they're gone," said Kennedy. "Well how we cope: what we're doing now."

People in the Samoan community say while it's their culture to give as much as they can to those in desperate need, they have been especially touched by those who aren't Samoan but have donated.

"If you have a heart, you want to help. And that's the way I feel about it," said Char Powell, a relief donor.

"They just need anything they can get so any help is any help, it's good. It's a good thing," said Chrissy Parson, a relief donor.

Trader Joe's showed up Wednesday afternoon with a big rig full of items such as water and food.

"Whatever we can do not only for our families but also the Tongan people out in Tonga and the Filipinos, they just got hit hard this morning. So all this relief fund is to help all of us, because we're all South Pacifics," said Kennedy.

The congregation also met for a prayer service in the morning to pray for the victims.

Some said they have been trying to contact loved ones in American Samoa, but all lines of communication have been virtually wiped out, so they don't have any way of knowing if family members on the island are OK.

The pastor at the church said he grew up on the island, and said the village he is from was destroyed Tuesday. He became emotional when talking about the devastation.

"It's never happened in Samoa before. Now I know exactly how the other part of the world felt when things like this happen," said Rev. Ioane Mailo.

"It's very difficult to think about."

Relief effort in Los Angeles

Samoan pastors Rev. Dr. John Mailo and Rev. Malaki Tauiliili II will be heading the food/can and clothing drive at 1249 E. Carson St. in Carson.

All cans, clothing and tents will be collected from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October at the church location. The goods will be placed into a container and sent to Samoa.

For further information, please call (310) 513-1930.

The owner of Hollywood Park, Leo Chu, and church bingo director Kennedy Mailo will be having a benefit bingo game Saturday evening, 10/3, at 6 p.m. at Hollywood Park Bingo. Proceeds will go to purchasing of container(s), canned foods, clothing, etc. to send to Samoa.

For further information, please call (310) 365-6707.

Eyewitness News reporters Lisa Hernandez and Leo Stallworth contributed to this report.

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