Cash, prayers and paper cranes are winging their way from the Rogue Valley to help relief efforts in Japan.
Local Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way leaders are rallying to raise money for Japan's recovery from twin natural disasters — a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Scam artists are becoming increasingly adept at exploiting disasters for personal gain. After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, text messages became a convenient and popular way to donate to legitimate groups such as the American Red Cross. Scam artists caught on to this trend and started sending mass "charity relief" text messages, requesting credit card numbers and other sensitive information.
In a new twist on the "emergency" scam, hackers are now using alleged video footage of the disaster in Japan linked to malware and online surveys that are designed to extract personal information. For example, one report describes a video linked to a scammer's Facebook account. By clicking on the video, the viewer's personal information shared on Facebook becomes available to the scammer.
Kroger's press release offers the following tips to avoid common emergency relief scams:
"We have gotten quite a few donations, from $10 to $1,000, to everything in between," said Marj Jameson, executive director of the Southern Oregon Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Financial donations are most helpful at this time in Japan's recovery efforts. The cost to ship donations of bulky supplies is prohibitive, Jameson said.
"Also if we spend the money in Japan, it helps with their recovery," she added.
Jameson said the Southern Oregon chapter also has helped 11 families in Brookings Harbor who lived aboard vessels damaged or destroyed in the March 11 tsunami that also wreaked havoc on Brookings and Crescent City, Calif.
Salvation Army members from the United States, Great Britain, Australia and other nations are already hard at work in Japan. The international organization has had a presence on the island continent since 1885, said Capt. Mark Cooper, commander of the Jackson County Salvation Army.
Cooper said he was relieved to hear no Salvation Army property was damaged in the twin disasters. He also said he was touched to hear that 1,500 Haitian teens from Port Au Prince had joined in prayer for the people of Japan.
"They stopped what they were doing and prayed," Cooper said. "That jumped out at me."
The Red Cross and Salvation Army organizations do great work when a disaster happens, said Dee Anne Everson, director of United Way of Jackson County.
"They are about immediate relief for international, national and local disasters," Everson said, adding United Way's long-term recovery efforts are spearheaded by United Way in Japan, which is known as the Central Community Chest of Japan.
"They are a member of United Way worldwide, as are we," Everson said. "And what we will focus on is rebuilding, repairing and the long-term recovery of community."
Not all Southern Oregon donations headed to Japan are taking the form of cash or checks. At least 1,000 symbols of healing and hope were crafted out of origami paper squares and folded into colorful cranes by local Girl Scouts.
In Asian countries, the crane is a symbol of happiness, and the act of stringing together exactly 1,000 is a gesture of healing. Girl Scouts from Japan sent strings of 1,000 cranes to the U.S. after 9/11, said Michael Ahn, a local troop coleader.
About 50 pairs of nimble hands spent about five hours on Saturday creating the curtain of cranes. What was intended to be a three-hour cranefest turned into an overtime sprint as the girls worked to finish their 1,000 cranes before a 10 p.m. deadline, Ahn said.
"We even had a crane hospital," he said, adding experienced crane creators helped resurrect "crazy, mangled attempts at crane-making that went awry."
Currently hanging by clothespins on a line draped across the fireplace mantle at the Girl Scout's headquarters, the cranes will be sent to Japan in the next few days, Ahn said.
"My hope is that the cranes will lift their spirits and give encouragement," said 13-year old Anica Mathisen.
Those who would like to donate, and also learn how to make an origami crane, can head over to Three Rivers Hospital at 500 S.W. Ramsey Ave. in Grants Pass from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, said Jameson.
"People are paying to learn how to make paper cranes," she said. "We're going to try to make 1,000 cranes."
Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.