Call for Donations to Assist Japanese Sister City After Flooding, Landslides

The Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida (JASNWFL) is asking the Pensacola community to give back to its Japanese sister city in the aftermath of the country’s recent natural disaster.

In late June and early July, Japan experienced torrential rains that have caused widespread destruction through flooding and landslides. It has become the nation’s deadliest natural disaster since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Among the affected areas is Gero, which has a relationship with Pensacola going back 25 years. Thankfully, there has been no loss of life in that area, but the floods have damaged city roads and other infrastructure. Like Pensacola, Gero relies heavily on tourism, so this damage can have a lingering, domino effect on the local economy.

To assist the people of Gero, the Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida has created the “Gero Recovery Fund” and is asking the community for donations.

“We will be collecting donations from now through August,” said Shigeko Honda, executive director of JASNWFL. “Our hope is to get the whole community behind this effort and make a strong show of support to our Japanese friends.”

Since 1993, hundreds of middle school students have participated in exchange visits between Pensacola and Gero (formerly known as Hagiwara). Formal sister-city relations were established in 1998. Gero Mayor Hidehiro Hattori planned to visit Pensacola this month to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that relationship, but the trip was postponed due to the storm.

In the past, Pensacola has received aid from our sister city. In 2004, in the wake of Hurricane Ivan, Gero woodcut artist Tadashiro Fukui donated several prints that were auctioned for $10,000, with proceeds benefitting the Pensacola News Journal’s “Lend-A-Hand” recovery program. After the historic floods that damaged Pensacola in 2014, Gero citizens raised $12,000 that was disbursed through the United Way of Escambia County.

“Our friends in Gero have stood up for Pensacola when we were hit by natural disasters,” said Layne Yonehiro, president of JASNWFL. “This is a great way to show our solidarity with them in their time of need.”

The Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida is a 501c3 not-for-profit, so all donations are tax-deductible. All proceeds of the fundraising effort will be sent to the City of Gero.

For more information or to make a donation, visit jasnwfl.org/gero.