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Fort Bragg residents raise $253,000 for tsunami-devastated sister city in Japan

In the year since a tsunami devastated their sister city on the northern coast of Japan, Fort Bragg residents have raised more than $253,000 to aid Otsuchi.

People from across the country and as far away as Europe have contributed money to Fort Bragg's Otsuchi Recovery Fund, which was initiated shortly after the tsunami hit on March 11, 2011, wiping out much of the town and killing more than 1,500 of its 15,000 inhabitants.

"I think a lot of people were moved by what happened," said Fort Bragg City Councilman Doug Hammerstrom, treasurer of the fund.

8.9M Earthquake Hits Japan

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One of those people is Catherine Wanandi, a 17-year-old high school student from Lake Forest, Ill.

Inspired by her parents and a counselor at her school, Woodlands Academy of the Sacred Heart, Wanandi led a student drive that raised nearly $20,000 for the relief effort.

"I just wanted to help," she said Monday.

The effort included a dinner and talent show attended by 250 people.

The money raised will go to help the few schools remaining in Otsuchi. Only three of 12 schools remain standing following the tsunami, said Sharon Davis, coordinator for the Fort Bragg Otsuchi Cultural Exchange, which turned into a fundraising organization following the tsunami.

Rotary clubs have raised more than $40,000 for Otsuchi, Hammerstrom said. The club in Sebastopol last year held a fundraiser that yielded $11,000, he said.

"We discussed as an association whether we wanted to specify how that money is used, but we decided to tell them that money was for them to use as they saw fit," Davis said.


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