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In the wake of the 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that struck Japan last week, which killed more than 4,000 people, left more than 8,000 missing, and has left a half million more homeless, local organizations and leaders stepped up relief efforts this week.
“The images coming out of Japan are simply horrifying,” said Congresswoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.). “The loss of life and the damage caused by this natural disaster is nothing short of tragic. My heartfelt sympathies are extended to the Japanese people and to all the families touched by this event.”
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa expressed his support to the people of Japan and said he is ready to offer the city’s services to help.
“On behalf of all Angelenos I want to extend our thoughts and prayers to the people of Japan, as well as to the family and friends of victims affected by this horrible tragedy,” Villaraigosa said. “The City of Los Angeles stands ready and willing to help in any way it can to ease the suffering and aid in the recovery of this devastating earthquake.”
The Laugh Factory in Hollywood put together a special comedy show Tuesday night to raise money for the earthquake and tsunami victims. Former Saturday Night Live and current “Weeds” star Kevin Nealon hosted “Stand Up for Japan,” with all of the proceeds going to the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. Other performers included Tommy Davidson, Tony Rock, Paul Rodriguez and Jeremy Hotz.
Daron Moore, head of marketing for the Laugh Factory, was one of the people who came up with the idea to put on a show during the early morning on March 11.
“The marketing department and I were watching the news and were completely horrified,” Moore said. “We quickly got to work on doing something to help.”
Nealon, who has been appearing at the Laugh Factory for a few weeks, volunteered to host the benefit show, and the other comedians quickly jumped on board including KT Tatara and Paul Ogata, both of Japanese descent.
“Comedians can provide laughter and here we believe laughter is the best medicine,” Moore said. “We are really happy to provide that during these times. The Laugh Factory is always a place where we always want to give back.”
Moore credited Jamie Masada, the owner of the Laugh Factory, for their involvement in relief efforts.
Masada said he was just doing what any other person should do when witnessing a crisis with the magnitude of what Japan is facing right now.
“No human being can sit down and just watch this disaster go by without doing anything,” Masada said.
He added that the show served the purpose of raising money and also provides a form of therapy to those affected by the tragedy. Tatara has family in Japan and has not been able to locate them, but he performed in the show anyway.
“Laughter has a healing power,” Masada said. “If we can give some people healing through laughter, that’s all that matters.”
The Hollywood United Methodist Church was another local institution that began accepting donations for the earthquake relief through the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), their nondenominational relief organization. All United Methodist churches will be accepting a special offering during services to help provide financial resources for those most in need resulting from the disaster. UMCOR also pledged more relief in the future.
“Working with its partners; the United Church of Christ in Japan, the Korean Christian Church, Church World Service, Global Medic, the National Christian Council, and the Asian Rural Institute, UMCOR is currently focused on working to assess the damage to determine how best to provide assistance and will then respond accordingly,” said Larry Goodpaster, head of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
On a broader scale, the Los Angeles Dodgers held a tsunami relief event at Dodger Stadium Tuesday. The event was held in Lot 1 and ran from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Donations were accepted in cash and checks and went to the American Red Cross’ Japan Tsunami Fund. Dodger alumni Bobby Castillo, Kenny Landreaux, Rudy Law, Al Ferrara, Jimmy Campanis and Derrel Thomas, along with local television personalities, were on hand to accept the donations. Early estimates had the total money raised at $58,347 but organizers were still counting at the present time. Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, a native of Japan, also donated $50,000 to the earthquake relief fund.
The fundraising will not end there as local city officials are also getting involved. Los Angeles City Council President Pro Tempore Jan Perry and Councilmember Bernard Parks will hold a drive today from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. in front of Los Angeles City Hall. The councilmembers will join volunteers on Main Street, between 1st Street and Temple Avenue, and help collect donations from passing pedestrians and motorists. Consul General Junichi Ihara of Japan will also appear to express his gratitude on behalf of the Japanese government.
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