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Bayside restaurant owner raises funds for tsunami aid

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Since the Dec. 26 earthquake and resulting tsunami waves that wreaked havoc on Indian Ocean coastlines, owner Paul Lim has been gathering donations for tsunami relief at his Thai restaurant at 42-31 Bell Blvd., raising more than $3,000. Next week Erawan and 39 East, a pan-Asian restaurant at 213-41 39th Ave., are each hosting charity dinners at which half of all profits will be donated to victims in Thailand. "I heard there are very bad happenings in Thailand, South Asia," Lim said. "I'd like to help, but I don't want to help with big organizations because I don't know how much of the money will assist" instead of going to administrative costs.Funds raised at Erawan and 39 East are going to the Thai USA Association, founded by Lim's friend, Suchitra Paleewong, whose company, Paleewong Trading Co., is the New York distributor of Singha beer. Paleewong started Thai USA as a cultural agency, and the organization is now working with the Royal Thai Consulate in New York to raise money for their home country."I contacted (Paleewong) to help collect the funds to send over there," Lim said. "I saw no one else doing this in Bayside."Lim's family is from Bangkok, on the eastern side of Thailand, so his relatives were spared from the deadly waves. He does not know anyone missing. But, he said, the tragedy still struck home."I just feel very bad for the poor countries," he said. "All those people who don't have anything, people still looking for kids. I hope people will feel sympathy for them."In addition to the charity dinner week, customers have already stuffed more than $3,000 into a small fishbowl Lim keeps on the bar counter at Erawan. "People are very generous," he said. "A lot of people really sympathize. It has been more than I expected so far." Some have written checks for hundreds of dollars, including one customer who donated $500, the largest single contribution yet. The popular restaurant serves nearly a thousand people each week, Lim said, and those who have donated give at least $20.The Thai USA funds will go toward aiding orphans and rebuilding the infrastructure of Phuket, a village on the southwestern Thai island of Phi Phi that was almost completely obliterated by the tsunami.Lim hopes to raise a total of $15,000, including proceeds from the $50, three-course charity dinner. The menu for the dinner will feature an appetizer, an entree of steak or fish, and dessert, with two glasses of wine included. The dinner is scheduled to run from Monday through Sunday, Jan. 23.He waved off questions about the possible loss of revenue."I don't lose anything," Lim said. "What I gain is a good feeling of helping."Reservations for the charity dinners are recommended. Call Erawan at 718-428-2112 or 39 East at 718-229-1620. For more information about Thai USA Association, visit www.thai-usa.org. Checks can be made to Thai USA, memo: South Thailand Disaster Fund, and sent to 628 10th Ave., New York, NY 10036. Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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