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Drive nets $220,000 for victims of tsunami

With matching funds from local philanthropist Kiran C. Patel, the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding has raised $220,000 in 10 days for tsunami victims in southeast Asia.

"If you ever needed faith restored in human beings, then you only need to look at the outpouring from the Tampa Bay community," Sigrid Tidmore, executive director of the foundation, said Monday.

Days after the tsunami struck in the Indian Ocean, Patel, a former owner of a health care provider, issued a statement that he would match money collected by the foundation through Jan. 7.

Donations poured in from all over the Tampa Bay area, $110,000 in all.

Two Unity churches raised more than $7,000 in offerings, Tidmore said.

Convenience store owners sent in checks and change from their customers.

Small offices took up employee collections and brought them to the foundation's office on Mariner Street in Tampa.

Last Friday afternoon, the Academy at the Lakes student council from Lutz marched in and emptied pockets and envelopes of $2,700.

The money will be used primarily to rebuild hospitals and schools in the devastated areas, Tidmore said.

The foundation has experience in rebuilding after disaster.

Kiran Patel and his wife, Pallavi, were in India when the tsunami struck. On their agenda was a ribbon-cutting of a hospital the foundation rebuilt in India's Kutch region after a 2001 earthquake.

This week, Kiran Patel toured by helicopter and walked tsunami-affected areas outside Chennai (formerly Madras) in southeast India.

"Our job is only beginning," Patel said in a statement released Monday. "When the TV cameras stop rolling, our foundation will still be here. We will be rebuilding schools and hospitals for many years to come."

Money is still being raised, Tidmore said.

Ten local restaurants, as well as popular musicians and artists, will hold a fundraising party and silent auction on Jan. 30 from 1 to 5 p.m. at St. Bart's Island House in Tampa to benefit the relief efforts of the Patel Foundation. The $25 tickets will go on sale later this week.

HOW TO HELP:

Visit www.Global-Understanding.org

or call (813) 471-4380.

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