Saturday, December 24, 2005
By Jill Zehler
Special to the Times-Union
Watson Realtor William Vasana has witnessed firsthand one of the most devastating natural disasters in modern history. A native of Bangkok, Thailand, Vasana was visiting his wife's homeland of China last December when he heard the news that a terrible tsunami had hit Southern Thailand and other countries off the coast of the Indian Ocean.
Immediately, Vasana caught a flight to Thailand to visit family and to inquire about friends and neighbors who were missing. To help search for the missing, including one of his friends, as well as to help with the overall recovery efforts, Vasana found himself drawn to Pang-Nga, a Thai province that suffered the most severe damage from the giant wave.
"When we got there it was nothing like what I hoped for," Vasana said. "It was like a war zone. The entire village got washed away from the coastline."
Vasana quickly got to work helping to set up temporary shelters, as well as attending to the needs of the displaced children whose parents were missing or had perished. From supplying survivors with food and water, to setting up plans of action for the financially burdened, Vasana and a dedicated team of volunteers set up and achieved many of their group's preliminary goals.
Today, Vasana continues to be involved in the relief efforts for Southern Thailand in the wake of the Dec. 26 tsunami. He contributes to a Web-based adoption effort that finds homes for children whose families were lost as a result of the tsunami.
But, there's much more that remains to be done. With financial support from private donations from people worldwide, the rebuilding of lives and communities in Asia is ongoing. Vasana encourages others to contribute to not only tsunami relief, but also to Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in the United States.
"It's the little things that you can do that can make a difference," Vasana said.
On a local level, the lives of children living on the First Coast are made a little better by the efforts of many people who give their time and money to Children's Miracle Network, an international non-profit organization dedicated to raising funds for children's hospitals. All funds that are raised in Jacksonville, stay in Jacksonville, benefiting the local hospitals that treat children.
RE/MAX Realtors Jeanne Moellendick and Barbara Kreglow for years have been dedicated to the Children's Miracle Network. Their company, RE/MAX International, has been a sponsor of Children's Miracle Network since 1992 and has raised more than $56 million since that time, making it the second largest sponsor.
As Realtors, working to help Children's Miracle Network is a no-brainer, Kreglow said.
"We are moving families around," Kreglow said. "We are involved in many lives, and we want everyone's futures to be good. It's a win-win for everybody."
Moellendick said RE/MAX associates participate in numerous activities to raise money including wrapping Christmas gifts at Regency Square mall.
"I think it is great because it helps our local children," Moellendick said. "Children's Miracle Network is nationwide, but the money that we are able to generate in this area actually goes directly to the children here. There are children with unfortunate and critical needs, and the money that is raised goes for equipment for tests and treatments. When you see the situation, it certainly touches your heart."
During this special time of year, many families in Northeast Florida are especially in need. With the help of many local residents, including Eileen Blocker of Magnolia Properties, some families are getting a helping hand.
Through a charity she founded with her sons called AngelWorks, families identified by local agencies are provided a boost for their basic needs, in addition to brightening up their holidays. Whether it is buying Christmas gifts for children or just paying a bill that needs immediate attention, AngelWorks finds sponsors who are willing to help.
With assistance from approximately 200 agents who work at Magnolia Properties, as well as with help from her mother, Jean Galvin, who also is the office receptionist, and assistants Teresa Scoggins and Deanne Johns, Blocker said AngelWorks finds a way to help as many families who are in need as it can. And the giving doesn't stop after the holidays. All year long, AngelWorks matches sponsors who can give time or funds to help families with their important needs such as food or transportation.
"I have not looked at it as anything that is related to my profession," Blocker said. "It is part of our lives. Giving is a gift you give yourself. There is a tremendous amount of satisfaction that comes from being able to help someone."
To help AngelWorks meet the needs of local families, contact Blocker at (904) 348-5665. To contribute to the Children's Miracle Network cause, check out the Web site at www.cmn.org. To learn more about tsunami relief efforts, visit these Web sites: www.icrc.org; www.psy.chula.ac.th; and www.serviceforpeace.org.