By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Editor’s note: Sichuan’s tragic earthquake on May 12 reverberated on the other side of the world. Rather than rerun a depressing reminder of the events that transpired, we decided to run a story on how our own community came together to give what they could to help earthquake victims.
What inspired a wife to be pitted against her husband, a restaurateur to give up jewelry worth $24,000, 30 youths to go door to door performing for hours, wait staff to throw in their hard-earned tips, a woman to pay $1,000 just to buy back her own jewelry, and a barbecue shop to roast three pigs?
The earthquake that struck Sichuan province on May 12, along with the many aftershocks, killed over 70,000 people, and 19,000 are still missing.
On June 1, several Chinatown community organizations raised $166,596 for earthquake victims in China — a record-breaking amount accomplished with just two weeks’ preparation, thus exceeding the original goal of $100,000.
Most of the money was raised during a live auction and dinner, held for 540 people at Ocean City Restaurant.
Janie Lee, who sat in the front of the room, bid high for a Chinese brush painting without knowing that her husband, Allen, who was sitting at the back of the room, was also bidding for the same item. Both were working to help raise the price. When the auctioneer announced that the couple was bidding simultaneously, Allen withdrew his bid and his wife bought the painting for $800.
Chef Ling, owner of Noble Court Restaurant of Bellevue, supported the event by donating his wife’s 12.5 carat diamond bracelet in addition to three restaurant gift certificates. With an appraisal certificate, the bracelet valued at $24,000 was sold for $4,000.
To further stir up excitement, Mulvanny G2 Architecture owner Jerry Lee and his wife, Charlene, brought in a basketball autographed by Yao Ming. The bidding went up to $800 in less than 30 seconds, and the basketball was sold to Winnie Ng, owner of Ocean City Restaurant.
A bottle of red wine autographed by Gov. Chris Gregoire and Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, donated by business owner Kuo Yao Leung, sold for $500. Leung also coordinated the tables and said they were sold within a week.
At the end of the bidding for the wine, the buyer donated it back to the auction, and it was resold. Four buyers followed suit and donated their items back.
Another strategy for raising money was restaurant donors, including O’Asian, Golden City, V Garden, King’s BBQ, Sea Garden and House of Hong, had agreed earlier that they would each donate three gift certificates, despite the fact the program listed only one.
This not only saved time, but allowed for more audience participation, as restaurant certificates are always popular at auctions. While the actual cost of one roast pig at King’s BBQ is $220, the three roast pigs King’s donated netted $1,400.
The other lesson the hosts learned was to seize opportunities on the spot and break with the original plan.
Tony Au, one of the organizers, set his eyes on real estate developer Shiao-Yen Wu’s jewelry as soon as she walked in the room: a jade bracelet, a 24k gold ring and a 24k gold and six-pearl ring.
He persuaded her to donate the jewelry for the auction. And when the bid price didn’t turn out to be ideal, he convinced her to pay $1,000 to buy her own jewelry back. Wu good-naturedly complied.
Hard labor was also an effective means of raising a high amount. Au and his 40-member lion dance team, the International Lion Dance Team and Ying Yung Tong, with members as young as 9 years old, performed door to door for Chinatown businesses in the afternoon to raise money. Lots of pedestrians, including non-Asians, supported the youths’ efforts by putting money in a donation box when told it was for the quake victims.
More than $6,000 was raised because of their two-hour performance.
The staff of many local restaurants also chipped in the tips they received that day — kitchen workers collected whatever they could and presented the donations to organizers.
Another fundraising event, the Chinese Festival, held a day earlier at the Seattle Center, raised more than $10,000. (end)
Assunta Ng can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.