Sonomans give to typhoon victims

A Sonoma family collecting donations for victims of Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines earlier this month is preparing to send its first shipment and is amazed at the community’s response.

Recorded as one of the most powerful storms in history, with winds of 195 miles an hour and gusts as strong as 235 miles an hour, Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the Philippines on Friday, Nov. 8, killing thousands and affecting millions. According to a report from the United Nations, the storm affected 13 million people, displacing 4 million people and leaving 2.5 million people in need of food aid.

In an immediate response to the storm’s destruction, Dulce Silvi, her husband, Greg, and their three children, started a relief drive and asked Sonomans to donate canned and dry foods to send to the most devastated area, Tacloban City.

The family plans to collect goods for at least two years, because, as Dulce says, “it’s going to take a long time for those people to get back on their feet – it’s a long road.” The family has been collecting rice, canned sardines and tuna, canned soup and beans. It has also received clothing donations (Dulce asks that people only send items suitable for tropical weather).

“Our garage is just filling up with relief items,” Dulce said. “My husband’s prayer is to have our garage overflowing.”

On Thursday, Nov. 21, the Silvis sent their first shipment of food only (as advised by Dulce’s family in the Philippines). When packaged, the food shipment totaled 1,500 pounds.

“We are overwhelmed by the generosity,” Dulce said. “It is so beautiful to witness the good hearts of this community as we are banding together to help our brothers and sisters of the Philippines.” Individuals, families, schools and local businesses have all had a hand in filling the Silvis’ garage. Bank of Marin donated T-shirts, FISH (Friends In Sonoma Helping) donated two large boxes of unused spa sandals, and two women from Benicia and Martinez even drove to Sonoma to bring items.

Gourmet Food Inc., a food production company in Hayward, also donated pallets of food. Presentation School held its own food drive and a few volunteers delivered food to the Silvi family early last week.

Dulce’s 11-year-old son, Joseph, wrote a letter to his peers and their families at Crescent Montessori School and asked for help. The Silvis received many donations from generous families, Dulce said, and Crescent Montessori students offered to help pack boxes before shipment.

Initially, the Silvis planned to bear all shipping costs, but when their church, Faith Presbyterian, heard what the family was doing, it offered to help pay shipping fees.

Dulce, who is a native of the Philippines, will work with her family members, who live in Manila and in Tacloban, to distribute the collected goods to various agencies and assure they make it to the hands of victims.

Her eldest brother will lead the task from Manila, working with another brother to get goods to a cousin who works as a chief surgeon at Bethany Hospital in Tacloban City.

Recently, Dulce met with Sonoma Mayor Ken Brown to discuss the possibility of Sonoma becoming a partner city with Tacloban City to rebuild it, especially focusing on Bethany Hospital.

Dulce hopes the momentum from their relief effort continues even after the holiday season. “Don’t forget, holidays come and go, survivors will still be there picking up pieces, literally and figuratively, as they have to rebuild their lives from scratch,” she said.

Dulce said she will send a shipment every week to two weeks, and the next shipment will include food and clothes.

The Silvis are also considering hosting a fundraiser dinner in early 2014.

All donations can be dropped off to the family home at 18496 Happy Lane in Sonoma. For more information, email Dulce at dulceasilvi@gmail.com, or call either Greg or Dulce at 933-8223.