A Hoboken-based Filipino American is using his connections in the real estate world and the community in general to benefit victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which tore through the Philippines earlier this month, killing thousands and leaving millions homeless. In the weeks since the storm hit, David Tobias, an agent at Liberty Realty, has been gathering donations from around the community which he is then passing on to a local charity sending help to aid organizations in the Philippines.
“My heart sank when I saw the news, obviously,” said Tobias in an interview this week. “But immediately my thoughts when to helping.”
Tobias said that as news of the storm spread throughout Hoboken, some of his friends and colleagues began reaching out to ask if his family in the Philippines were safe. Most of them, including a group of uncles and cousins, were in contact with Tobias’ parents within a few days. His aunt, who lives in Tacloban, the Filipino city that took the most damage in the storm, was only able to get out word that she was safe on Wednesday.
“I think obviously Hurricane Sandy is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds.” – David Tobias
“It was a very organic thing,” he said. “People were asking me whether they could help, and so I wrote an email about ways they could donate and people from all over started getting back to me.”
Money, not goods
So far, Tobias has gathered a few thousand dollars in donations, from his colleagues and customers, as well as business owners around Hoboken and even complete strangers. He said that while donations of material goods were appreciated, cash donations are the best option for helping at this point.
“We don’t really know what they need on the ground, and it’s harder to transport stuff over there,” he said. “The donations are all being funneled Filipino Red Cross and the Archdiocese of Manila and a few other organizations that are doing work on the ground in Tacloban.”
Tobias is only one small part of a fundraising effort happening around New York and New Jersey. He explained that he and his family are part of an organization called the Waray Community Association, a group of Filipino-Americans from around the tri-state area that works on behalf of various causes, such as disaster relief.
Hoboken and the Philippines
Tobias said that he thought the outpouring of support from Hoboken residents and business owners has been inspiring, and noted that he thought it might have something to do with the city’s own recent run-ins with Mother Nature.
“I think obviously Hurricane Sandy is still fresh in a lot of people’s minds,” he said. “I think they’re remembering what it was like after that storm hit us and then when they see Tacloban on the news, they really start to come out of the woodwork.”
Tobias also compared the response of Hoboken residents to the generosity and welcoming nature that is a staple of Filipino culture.
“We’re a very giving culture, and I think that’s portrayed in our everyday actions,” he said. “Hoboken is showing that same generosity.”
Tobias was invited by a colleague to the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce’s annual gala last week, and emcee Eugene Flinn recognized him for his efforts. Since the dinner, inquiries from the business community have increased, said Tobias, and local charity group Party With Purpose is planning a fundraiser to help the cause.
“It’s really touching,” said Tobias. “It’s powerful. People around here are just goodhearted people, and they just can’t help but want to help.”
Tobias plans to continue to accept donations as long as the people of the Philippines are suffering, he said. To contribute, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at (201) 936-7154.
Dean DeChiaro may be reached at email@example.com