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Jackson Hts. opens wallets for tsunami relief

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So it came as no surprise that the community, which is home to tens of thousands of Indians and other South Asian natives, took a leading role in coordinating contributions for the massive relief effort half a world away. The Jackson Heights Merchants' Association, which unites numerous business owners from the 74th Street corridor known as Little India, was among the myriad borough group's that sprang into action almost as quickly as word of the massive Sunday morning earthquake and ensuing tidal waves spread. "It's going wonderful and people are very generous," said Nitin Vora, a member of the Jackson Heights Merchants' Association, which has been collecting donations since last week. Faced with the tragic loss of more than 10,000 along India's coastal region and hundreds of thousands more in other countries, Vora said, "the whole world unites and they become one to help their fellow human beings who are suffering from the disaster."The merchants' association, which said it was contacted shortly after the tragedy by representatives of the mayor's office, plans to send two merchants directly to India at their own expense when the donation drive wraps up later this month, Vora said. Once there, the merchants will work with locals in the affected areas along India's southeastern coast to help purchase and distribute needed supplies."We are collecting only funds as they need fresh water, medicines and food right away," the group said in a statement. The greatest threat now facing survivors, Vora said, is disease, such as cholera.Vora said the merchants' association also coordinated relief efforts after earthquakes in India in 1994 and 2000. By sending members to India directly, Vora said the association can ensure the funds are distributed in their entirety to the people who need them.Community Board 3 Chairman Richard Cecere urged residents in Jackson Heights, East Elmhurst and Corona to give generously to the relief effort."Clearly, many of our neighbors have been directly impacted by this tragedy," Cecere said in a letter. "As such, this is an opportunity for our larger community to come together and extend a helping hand to our neighbors and their respective kinfolk in South East Asia."To make a contribution, send checks made out to "JHMA for ERF" to Sam and Raj, 37-08 74th St., Jackson Heights, NY 11372. For more information, contact Shiv Dass at 718-651-8825.You can also contact Community Board 3 for more information on how to help at 718-458-2707.Reach reporter James DeWeese by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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