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Tsunami aid is nondenominational

For most of last week, waves of envelopes washed up on Judy Fix's desk.

For hours, she sliced each one open with a silver letter opener.

From one, she pulled out a check for $1,000; from another, $5.

Some had notes attached with paper clips.

"Enclosed, please find a small contribution to help the people devastated by the Tsunami," one said.

Another said: "A small donation from a big heart."

One elderly woman said she didn't have any money to give but wanted to donate her teddy bear collection for the children she saw crying on TV.

Within two days, Fix had counted $2,600 earmarked for survivors in Indonesia, Sri Lanka and other hard-hit countries.

"It does your heart good when you have an outpouring like this," she said. "It's a wonderful thing.

"I will send a thank-you card to each one."

The Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, where Fix is an administrative assistant, is one of hundreds of religious organizations taking up collections for relief. Many who have sent checks to the organization are not even Jewish.

Amid fears of scams and corruption, wary donors have contacted agencies they trust, such as the Jewish Federation and the Salvation Army.

"Ninety-five percent of funds that are raised go directly to the tsunami victims," said Toni Rinde, federation president.

The Jewish Federation is among 189 federations across the United States under the umbrella of United Jewish Communities. Donations are sent to the American Joint Distribution Committee, which gets the money to the survivors.

Herman and Irma Lichtenberg of Clearwater sent $25 to the organization.

"We are Holocaust survivors and we felt not enough was done at that time in America and the rest of the world," Herman Lichtenberg said. "This is something we must take care of. (Our donation) is not much, but it helps."

Members of local mosques are making large contributions, which are sent to the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay.

By midweek, the organization counted $11,000 in donations. By the end of Friday, it estimated the count to exceed $25,000.

"To help the need, to share with them and minimize their pain. That's our (motto)," said Mohammad Sultan, director of the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay.

Local Methodist churches are sending members' donations to the United Methodist Committee on Relief in New York City.

The organization said it has received more than $1-million from its online giving campaign alone. More will arrive in the mail from the 38,000 Methodist churches across the United States.

The Dhamma Wheel Meditation Society in Clearwater has raised $4,500 for relief. The Buddhist monk who leads the group, Bhante Dhammawansha, will take the money and distribute it personally when he goes to the disaster area this summer.

No matter what faith, most churches, synagogues, temples and mosques seem to be doing their part.

Grace Christian Fellowship in Largo passed the basket at Sunday's service and raised $2,000.

"There were four $100 checks and one $500 check," church administrator Becky Evans said. "People are pretty generous if they are confident it will go where it needs to go."

Judy Fix, an administrative assistant for the Jewish Federation of Pinellas County, on Wednesday reads a note that came with a check. It said: "Please help these poor souls." The federation has collected more than $3,000, and 95 percent of the aid will go directly to the victims.