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Volunteers at L.A. City Hall raise funds for Japan disaster victims

March 17, 2011 |  8:31 am

Volunteers, including two Los Angeles City Council members and a Japanese American with relatives in Tokyo, were among the volunteers soliciting donations Thursday morning to aid relief efforts for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.
The American Red Cross is managing the daylong event and will donate proceeds to its counterpart in Japan. The organization is seeking cash, not goods, said Eva Behrend, communications director for Councilwoman Jan Perry.

“They can’t really use anything but money because of the cost of delivering things to Japan,” said Behrend.

Her boss was standing in the middle of Main Street, outside City Hall, flagging down drivers, who found it hard to avoid her. Transportation workers had coned off three of four lanes and every driver had to pass through the one remaining lane.

“It’s a gauntlet,” said Perry, who wore the orange vest of a road maintenance worker.

“You kind of got them boxed in,” said Councilman Bernard Parks, who stood on the other side of the lane.

“Ask if the driver will let me in,” Perry called out to Parks from the other side of a chartered bus.

No luck on that one, but Perry’s bucket looked to have about $80 in it by 7:20 a.m. No driver was spared from being slowed or stopped.

“He’s the former police chief,” Perry gestured towards Parks as she exhorted two officers in a black-and-white — as if they didn’t already recognize Parks. The officers dug into their pockets.

“This is the kinder, gentler side of me,” insisted Parks, who made his requests with a smile.

Perry represents Little Tokyo, and Parks has a Japanese American community within his South Los Angeles district.

On the other side of Main Street was Joyce Wakano Chinn, 63, a third-generation Japanese American who lives in the San Fernando Valley.

“I have most of my relatives in Japan,” said Chinn, who added that her family members live in the Tokyo area and are fine.

She does have concerns about radiation leaking from damaged nuclear reactors to the north.

“As the crisis gets more acute, that’s a concern,” said Chinn, a retired teacher. “But I don’t think they’re panicking like people here are panicking.”

Her neighbors, however, have more pressing worries.

“They haven’t heard from any of their relatives and they’re in Sendai,” in the heart of the devastated region, Chin said as she clutched a donation box. “It’s pretty devastating.”


Q&A: Radiation risks and potassium iodide

Japanese student at UC Riverside finds family alive on YouTube

Animated map shows radioactive material's path across Pacific toward California

-- Howard Blume