COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As the death toll in Turkey and Syria continues to increase following devastating earthquakes, the central Ohio community is finding ways to help relief efforts.
It’s an especially important cause for those living in central Ohio who have family and friends in the impacted areas.
“I don’t know what to say, it is really sad, there’s no words to say,” said Ali Kucuker, Outreach Coordinator for the Turkish American Society of Ohio.
Kucuker’s mother, siblings and other relatives still live in Turkey. He says he’s heard from them, but their homes have suffered too much damage to live in.
“It’s traumatizing, my mom was saying it was like an earthquake in the beginning, but it took like 1 minute, 40 seconds. That is extremely long, longer than the regular earthquakes,” he said. “So she said it was like the end of the world.”
TASO is fundraising and giving the money to relief efforts through Embrace Relief and is having a bake sale this Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 2885 W. Dublin Granville Road. It’s not the only central Ohio non-profit helping with relief efforts; the Turkish American Association of Central Ohio is fundraising and collecting winter clothes.
“What can I do from this corner of the world, how can I reach. And that’s what we are doing organization wise trying to help. Whatever we can do from here to there,” said Dr. Binnaz Leblebicioglu, president of TAACO.
Leblebicioglu is a professor of dentistry at Ohio State University. She also has family living in Turkey, and while they don’t live near the earthquake epicenter, there are others she’s close with who she has not heard from.
“A lot of friends, colleagues, students, old students, I’m still having a hard time reaching them and some of them, every day I’m hearing news that they died, that they passed away,” she said. “They’re not family, but they are kind of family, so it’s hurting.”
She lived in Turkey when a devastating earthquake hit in 1999.
“It was very close to Istanbul, my hometown. I have experience and then I heard this happened again at this large scale, it was very emotional, and I lived that experience all over again,” she said.