For most Middle Georgians the impact of Typhoon Haiyan is a distant clamor from news reports, but for some it hits very close to home.
Anita Smith, of Warner Robins, said she married a U.S. Air Force serviceman and came to the United States from the Philippines in 1968, but her sister and most other family members endured the massive storm when it pounded the island nation late last week.
She reached her family by phone and learned that theyd worried her sisters roof would give way. But in the end, the family home survived with minimal damage, Smith said.
Everybodys OK, we didnt really get hit the way (the province of) Leyte did. Were from Cebu, she said.
Typhoon Haiyan hit the nation of 99 million with wind gusts of up to 195 mph, possibly making it the strongest storm on record. Some news reports suggest the winds, at times, could have topped 230 mph. It was big enough to touch all the archipelagos roughly 7,100 islands, but hardest hit were the islands of Samar and Leyte. Cebu is just west of Leyte.
Up to 10,000 people are feared dead, with hundreds of thousands homeless, without food, clean water or medical aid.
Though Smiths family survived nearly unscathed, she and other area Filipinos plan to aid those who werent so fortunate. Shes the founder of the Damayan Filipino American Association of Middle Georgia, most of whose 60-odd members are Philippine natives, she said. If other members families were on Leyte and suffered the worst of the storm, Smith hasnt heard from them yet; but shes already talked to several friends who want to donate, she said.
Normally the group holds a couple of fundraisers a year, mostly for Philippine charities; but at their Thanksgiving dinner party this Saturday, they will take up a collection for the Philippine Red Cross, Smith said. The Thanksgiving dinner will be at 5 p.m. in the Warner Robins Recreation Center, 800 Watson Blvd., she said.
Tracy Willis-Kight, executive director of the American Red Cross Central Georgia Chapter, said the local Red Cross will be glad to work with Smiths group.
Weve not reached out to the local Filipino community as of yet, Willis-Kight said.
But at the international level, the Filipino branch of the Red Cross has asked for assistance from the American Red Cross, she said.
At a local level, we fundraise for the Philippine Red Cross, Willis-Kight said.
Area residents who want to help can donate to the local chapter, designating their money for the Philippines or victims of Typhoon Haiyan, she said. It can be done through cash, check or by phone with a credit card, Willis-Kight said.
Whatever is the donors choice, she said.
If Red Cross Central Georgia starts getting calls from area residents who cant reach family or friends in the Philippines, they may be able to help through the organizations Safe & Well online registry, Willis-Kight said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.