Manatee aid groups gather relief supplies for typhoon victims

skennedy@bradenton.comNovember 12, 2013 

MANATEE -- Local organizations have begun gathering relief supplies and money for survivors of Typhoon Haiyan, the super storm that last weekend devastated parts of the Philippines.

Among those helping are Bradenton's Hope Lutheran Church and its partner, the nonprofit agency called Gift2care, with an office in Bradenton; Shelterbox USA, with a office at Lakewood Ranch; and the American Red Cross.

The regional American Red Cross is only collecting monetary donations, as there is no place to store aid items in the Philippines yet, according to a spokeswoman.

Bright House Networks has opened The Filipino Channel, channel 980, at no

additional cost to all customers, where it is available.

"Family and friends in the United States can follow TFC complete coverage on the ground in the Philippines," said Joe Durkin, senior director of corporate communications for Bright House Networks.

The signal will remain open through Nov. 15, he said.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the Philippines," he added.

Locally, donations may be taken to Hope Lutheran Church, its pastor said.

"We have a connection, we have the facilities here," said Craig Mathews, pastor of the church at 4635 26th St. W. "I'm willing to say 'yes.'

"If we can support them by providing the space, that would be our contribution as well."

He is working with the nonprofit Gift2care, which is collecting donations to send to areas of the Philippines where residents are without food, water, housing, electricity and transportation.

The typhoon already ranks as one of Asia's most destructive natural disasters in recent decades.

"We are asking for money and for water, clothing, toiletries," said Diana Ros, a Philippines native and a volunteer executive director, event manager and case manager for Gift2care.

She also will be looking for volunteers to help pack containers to be sent there by sea.

Plans for a local fundraiser are tentatively set for Dec. 7, she said.

Shelterbox USA is also mounting a relief effort. The international aid organization already had teams helping earthquake victims in the island nation when the typhoon hit, said Tiffany Stephenson, director of communications.

"It's a bad situation. There will be immense need, I'm sure," she said.

Shelterbox volunteers on the ground already rode the storm out successfully, but the typhoon's destructive swath has dealt a serious blow.

"Our team says the damage is massive, and the death toll is feared to be 10,000 -- it's the strongest storm ever recorded," Stephenson said.

More teams are en route to the most seriously damaged parts of the Asian nation, such as Tacloban, Cebu and Bohol, Stephenson said.

"We're moving in additional aid, and will be working in the hardest-hit areas," she said.

Shelterbox is an international humanitarian relief organization that provides emergency tented shelter to help families survive and rebuild.

The American Red Cross has already sent disaster specialists and some satellite equipment.

"We can't send any donated items or anything. There's no place to store it right now," said Janet McGuire, communications officer for the American Red Cross's Florida west coast region. "Money is the only thing done so far."

For information on Gift2care, call 941-567-7752, or go to gift2care.org.

To donate to Shelterbox USA, call 941-907-6036, go to shelterboxusa.org, or text the word SHELTER to number 20222 to make a $10 donation.

To donate to the American Red Cross, call 941-379-9300, or go to redcross.org/donate.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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