Chicago groups rally for earthquake relief in Turkey, Syria; here’s how to donate

As the death toll rises above 5,000 in Turkey and Syria and rebuilding efforts begin, Chicago residents can contribute to fundraisers, donation drives and medical supply collection.

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Emergency teams search for people in the rubble in a destroyed building in Adana, southern Turkey, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023

Emergency teams search for people Tuesday in the rubble in a destroyed building in Adana in southern Turkey.

Hussein Malla/Associated Press

As the death toll from devastating earthquakes exceeds 5,000 in Syria and Turkey, Chicago-area cultural and medical organizations are collecting funds and supplies for earthquake victims.

Monday’s earthquake flattened entire towns across more than 200 miles, the Associated Press reported.

Amid freezing winter temperatures, many residents are still trapped under rubble.

“The earthquake is one of the most unfortunate disasters in the region in the last hundred years,” said Dr. Bassel Atassi, president of the Syrian American Medical Society’s midwest chapter.

Like many in Chicago’s Turkish and Syrian communities, Atassi has been in frequent contact with people in the area since the earthquake.

Three medical society treatment centers in the earthquake zone have closed in the last 24 hours due to structural damage, Atassi said Tuesday afternoon. Treatment continues at dozens of others.

Nearly 150 Chicago-area medical providers are affiliated with the Syrian American Medical Society, Atassi said, and all are collecting donations.

“The needs are huge, and there are countless things to do on the ground,” Atassi said.

Those displaced by the earthquake are most in need of winter clothes, formula and diapers, hygiene products and shelf-stable food, said Turkish American Cultural Alliance president Vildan Gorener.

New or gently used, well-cleaned items are OK, and the Cultural Alliance hopes to collect winter clothes and supplies for people of all ages and genders. Tents, gas, generators, bedding and flashlights are also welcome.

The Turkish consulate in Chicago is collecting supplies on site at 455 N. Cityfront Plaza Drive. Chicago residents can also buy supplies online and have them shipped to the consulate. Also, the consulate is collecting direct monetary donations to the embassy’s account with Bank of America in Washington, D.C.

Supplies also can be dropped off at the Turkish American Cultural Alliance, 3845 N. Harlem Ave. and at the Skokie headquarters of IQRA’ Foundation, an Islamic education group, at 7450 Skokie Blvd.

Residents can send money to the Cultural Alliance at taca@tacaonline.org via Zelle or Paypal, with “Earthquake Relief Fund” in the description line.

The Syrian medical society’s midwest chapter has raised about $500,000 for Syrian and Turkish earthquake victims in the last 48 hours, Atassi said. Collections continue at www.sams-usa.net.

The Cultural Alliance, consulate and IQRA’ will collect supplies for at least two to three weeks, said Gorener.

“They will need way more materials than what we have collected at the moment,” Gorener said.

Items donated to the Cultural Alliance will be transported to the disaster zone in Turkey by Turkish Airlines on flights organized by the consulate.

Damage to transportation infrastructure will make it particularly difficult for residents to access prescription medication, Gorener said.

“We are in need of serious medical supplies,” Gorener said. “Some of the medicines, we cannot just get over the counter.”

Donated medical supplies are being stored at an Orland Park warehouse until medical missions to the area become possible.

Loss of existing medical infrastructure, combined with mass injuries and casualties among Turkish and Syrian doctors, have also affected relief efforts, Atassi said.

“We’re calling [doctors], and they’re in the streets with their carts and their wives and their kids, and many of their family members are missing,” Atassi said. “It’s horrifying to see that the hospital staff who usually help you with relief are now in the midst of the disaster.”

Contributing: Associated Press

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