Southern California drive-through donors raise relief funds for Japan

Motorcyclist donor Buzz Smith speaks with Red Cross volunteer at a drive-through donation stop for the Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake Tsunami Fund on March 14, 2011.
Motorcyclist donor Buzz Smith speaks with Red Cross volunteer at a drive-through donation stop for the Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake Tsunami Fund on March 14, 2011. Brian Watt/KPCC

To help with disaster relief in Japan, the American Red Cross and some local TV stations are accepting drive-through donations at some big stadiums in the Southland.

On Monday, the Red Cross teamed with ABC Channel 7 with operations at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and Angel Stadium in Anaheim.

In the Rose Bowl’s parking lot B: it was a quick transaction, over and over, through the driver’s side window of countless vehicles. Cash, Check, or Credit Card…with a receipt, if needed, for tax purposes.

The plan was to start collecting at 5:30 in the morning, but Red Cross spokeswoman Monica Diaz said the money started rolling in earlier than that.

"5 in the morning, people were already out here in their vehicles," said Diaz. "There’s a lot of runners and joggers out here. They were coming up, you know, putting whatever they had in their pockets. Whatever change they had. You know it’s really amazing how giving people are."

Jerry Cluck runs a shoe store in Pasadena. He pulled up in his SUV and contributed $100. He'd watched TV images of earthquake damage and people in need.

"I give to anybody that’s hurting. That’s just my life," said Cluck. "I may not have much, but what little I have, I share."

People like Cluck are heroes to Masi Oka, who starred in the NBC sci-fi drama “Heroes.” The actor stopped by the Rose Bowl to thank some drive-through donors. Oka was born in Japan. His grandparents, cousins, and lots of friends are still there.

"The first day, I was up until around 5 a.m. trying to get in contact with all my friends and families. I was very fortunate to get in touch with all of them," Oka said. "They were telling me that some of the phone lines were down. Some people were stuck in subways, so it was impossible to get in touch with them until they were released. And that’s been kind of rough."

By 11 a.m., volunteers at the Rose Bowl had collected about $20,000. Of each $1 donated, 91 cents goes to the Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake Tsunami Fund. The rest covers administrative costs.

Red Cross volunteers plan to collect donations until 6:30 p.m. Monday at the Rose Bowl. The Los Angeles Dodgers and KNBC have scheduled another drive-through relief collection Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.

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