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Ryan Johnson, Published November 16 2013

Local benefit raises more than $11,000 for Philippines

MOORHEAD – After Typhoon Haiyan devastated many areas of the Philippines, members of a regional group of Filipino-Americans knew they had to do something to help their relatives and friends back home.

But Augusto Alonto said the Fil-AMMinDak Association didn’t expect to get this much support, especially for a quickly scheduled spaghetti brunch to raise money for the Philippine Red Cross.

“It started out as a text that said, ‘What are we going to do?’ ” said Alonto, vice president of the group. “From there, this is what happened.”

The group, which has about 300 families from North Dakota, western Minnesota and South Dakota, had hoped to get 300 people to attend the brunch between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday and donate money, with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.

Officer John Asperin said they topped that goal by 2 p.m. – when about 400 people had loaded up on pasta and beverages at the Hjemkomst Center, all for a good cause. That number doesn’t include the people who stopped by to drop off monetary donations, he said.

“We are very, very amazed and overwhelmed with the support that’s going on here,” Asperin said. “We didn’t even expect this much coming in.”

The benefit raised a total of $11,455.66 between the spaghetti tickets, a silent auction of items donated by local businesses and cash and check donations. One visitor donated $435 – enough to fully cover the group’s charge to rent out the Hjemkomst Center for the brunch.

By 3 p.m., 460 people had paid their way to enjoy the meal, including 389 adults and 71 children.

Fargo resident Angel Hopper said she’s “very thankful” for the outpouring of community support for her native country.

While Asperin’s relatives live in the northern Philippines, which wasn’t as impacted by the typhoon, most of Hopper’s immediate family was in her parents’ home in Basey, a coastal community of about 50,000 that was hit hard by the storm.

Hopper said she’s “still hoping,” waiting for good news about her parents, her siblings and her sister’s 1-month-old baby – all were inside the house when the storm hit. She last spoke to them on the night of Nov. 7, hearing her sister scream that the house’s roof was coming off before the line went dead.

“It’s really hard because I don’t know what’s going on to my family,” she said.

Hopper’s cousin was killed by the storm, she said, but she hasn’t heard about her other family there yet.

Asperin said Saturday’s brunch in Moorhead was the local group’s way of giving back.

“We would like to help our fellow Filipinos back in the Philippines who are suffering from the aftermath of the storm,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan Johnson at (701) 241-5587