LEWISTOWN - In the wake of the destruction from Typhoon Haiyan, women of the local Filipino community have joined forces with ABS CBN Foundation International to create a clothing and food drive for immediate assistance in the Philippines.
Sharon Whitesel, Ann Brown, Cherie Erb, Kathy Shirey and Emmie Schwab, all of Mifflin County, are collecting summer clothing and canned goods to be shipped to their home country, the Philippines, by Friday. Monetary donations are also accepted to help fund the $90 a box shipping, with any remainder going directly to ABS CBN Foundation International.
Each woman has family living in the Philippines who are safe and accounted for.
"Cities were wiped out - at least 10,000 people died in one city alone - 95 percent of homes and buildings are gone and there is still no electricity and phone lines," Whitesel said. "I know I don't live there anymore, but my heart and my whole being is still with them because that's where I grew up."
In addition to the recent typhoon, the Philippines have experienced a number of hardships including 25 other typhoons, civil unrest and a recent earthquake, Whitesel said.
It's just heartbreaking, added Brown, being only one person and living so far away from home. But with help from the community, it's possible to bring some relief to the Philippines, she said.
"I'm just speechless," Brown said. "I can't sit back and relax without tears dropping onto my face. But with the help of each and everyone ... we can help, and that will remain in the hearts of the Filipinos. That will never be forgotten."
The women are hoping to fill at least three large boxes of donations by Friday night. Though prayer is the strongest weapon of all, the people of the Philippines need food, clothes and help to survive, Shirey said.
"Seeing the place where I grew up falling apart, knowing that there are 10,000 people who lost their lives, no food, homes, water and medicine - is so sad," Shirey said. "I will do my best that I can do to help them and I hope my community will as well."
Donations can be dropped off until Friday evening at 122 W. Fifth St., Lewistown. For more information, contact Whitesel at 348-7070.