JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than 11 million people in the Philippines are believed to have been affected by Typhoon Haiyan. Here in Jacksonville, there are about 16,000 Filipinos, the largest Asian community in Duval County.
Tonight, they are coming together to raise funds for family and friends back home, in an event at Maharlika Hall and Sports Grill on Beach Blvd, just west of San Pablo.
Many of the local Filipinos are still searching for missing relatives back home, or have gotten word that some of their loved ones have died. Some of them will speak at tonight's event.
Red Cross representatives say they are blown away with how much money people in our area have already donated for the Philippines, nearly $18,000 just during Channel 4's phone bank earlier this week, and an estimated $70,000-$80,000 total so far.
"It's heartwarming. It's absolutely wonderful," said Rosabel Hill, president of We Filipinos Inc. "I'm getting calls from different businesses that are willing to help out. I've got a local hotel that actually came and dropped off shampoo, soaps, conditioners. I've had banks that said what they're doing is collecting money from their employees."
Hill says this is money the storm victims need now, and that's why her group We Filipinos Inc. organized a big event tonight to make another push.
Several people living here in Jacksonville are searching for loved ones.
"We want them to talk and let the individuals know this is whats happening to us in the Jacksonville area, so can you imagine all the rest of the nation. Those individuals that are also unable to reach their family members or those family members that have passed away because of the disaster," Hill said.
The American Red Cross is working hand in hand with the Red Cross in the Philippines, and one of the biggest efforts donations go towards is reconnecting families.
"Fundraising events, the money, that is all critical to what we are doing and its very much needed but just imagine you have a family member in an area like that and you're trying to figure out where they are," Christian Smith, from the American Red Cross said.
"That's another one of those behind the scenes things that Red Cross is doing in working with families to help reunite those families."
The event tonight begins at 7 p.m. and it is a $25 donation to get in. They are anticipating to fill up the entire restaurant, which holds 250 people, so they are considering setting up tents and tables in the parking lot as well.
If you can't attend the fundraiser but would like to help, visit www.fpdjax.com.