How you can help Manalapan group saving lives after Turkey earthquake

After a massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck southern and central Turkey last month, killing 50,000 people, injuring more than 100,000 and displacing upwards of 2 million, members of the Turkish American Community Center in Manalapan sprang into action.

Not only did they quickly raise $10,000 for humanitarian aid; one of its members arranged for and accompanied a tractor-trailer to personally deliver water and food to devastated villages.

Tamer “Tom” Yildiz, a 48-year-old construction worker who has lived in the U.S. for 23 years after immigrating from Turkey, handed out 1,500 boxes of food containing 7,500 loaves of bread, plus water, throughout the southern Turkish province of Hatay.

“Throughout the region, tens of thousands of people were left homeless and spent the night in the cold,” Yildiz said. “The severe damage to the runway of Hatay Airport made rescue efforts and aid difficult.”

A truck is loaded with food and water, purchased by the Turkish American Community Center of Manalapan, for delivery to Turkish villages devastated by the earthquake.
A truck is loaded with food and water, purchased by the Turkish American Community Center of Manalapan, for delivery to Turkish villages devastated by the earthquake.

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Yildiz said among those killed was his former soccer coach.

“Children are without families; families have lost their children,” he said. “I will never forget these words of the rescuers in front of the collapsed buildings: ‘Anyone hear my voice?’”

The Turkish American Community Center, which was established in 1986 and has a membership of around 150, was not the only Central Jersey organization to mobilize to aid the earthquake victims. The BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha, a Hindu temple in Robbinsville, Mercer County, donated $25,000 to the Embrace Relief Foundation, an international aid group based in North Jersey.

“We feel the pain of the victims because we have also suffered a similar earthquake in India,” said Dr. Chirag Patel, a Farmingdale resident involved with the BAPS effort, “so our community is happy to help the victims.”

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For the Turkish American Community Center, there was an added level of personal touch given Yildiz’s on-the-ground delivery.

“When you donate to any organization, you want to make sure it all gets from Point A to Point B,” said Alper Senman, the center’s vice president. “We all felt comfortable shipping him the money.”

The experience inspired the center to start a more formal GoFundMe campaign to fuel the next round of aid efforts.

“Similar to (Superstorm) Sandy, these people are going to need help for years,” Senman said. “We want to help out long-term.”

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Yildiz, who is back in New Jersey now, said the villagers were eternally grateful for the Americans’ assistance — and that there’s much more to be done to provide these folks with some stability.

“Unfortunately,” he said. “The needs never end.”

Donations to the Turkish American Community Center’s relief fund for earthquake victims can be made at (search "Turkiye Earthquake Disaster Relief Fund.”)

Jerry Carino is community columnist for the Asbury Park Press, focusing on the Jersey Shore’s interesting people, inspiring stories and pressing issues. Contact him at

This article originally appeared on Asbury Park Press: Turkey earthquake spurs Manalapan NJ group to send help