“Zeki Yenikomsu, was born in Gaziantep, Turkey and now works in Orlando as a UPS pilot.
He was getting ready for bed Sunday night when his wife told him his hometown was near the epicenter of a massive earthquake. He called home right away.
“We have heard from most of our relatives they’re (mostly) OK, but some I have not heard from in the region,” Yenikomsu said. “Most of them don’t have homes to get back to.”
Early reports indicate over 3,000 buildings in the country have collapsed. Yenikomsu has plans to head to Turkey and help his family and neighbors. For now, he’s helping from afar by helping to organize money through the nonprofit Operation Backpacks 4 Kids, which is a charitable organization run by pilots who bring supplies to children all over the world after a disaster has occurred.
And he is not the only one.
Central Floridians are looking for ways to help Syria and Turkey after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, followed by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake, devastated the area and have racked up a death toll of at least 28,000.
Local charities are focusing on getting children and families blankets, tents, generators, and other sources of heat as temperatures dip below freezing in the Gaziantep area.
Orlando’s Istanbul Cultural Center — a Turkey nonprofit heritage site — is working with Embrace Relief Foundation Inc. — a 501 C3 nonprofit — to help families stay safe. The center is also working on its own fundraiser to help Orlando residents with families affected by the earthquake.
Mustafa Yucekaya, executive director of the Cultural Center -, says one of its member’s parents were in Orlando at the time of the earthquake but rushed home a day later.
“Their son and daughter-in-law were under the collapsed buildings so they went back to reach and help them,” Yucekaya said. “They have lots of relatives who are living over there. So they were here and then they got the first flight and went back to Turkey.”
Mouhammad Al Kanawati an Orlando resident and regional manager of Islamic Relief USA, is encouraging everyone to give toward the cause, reminding them every dollar counts.
“Do not belittle any dollar you spend as a donation. You may be bringing one more meal to a person in need,” Al Kanawati said. ‘You may be providing blankets for people who are sleeping in tents or in their cars. In this cold weather.’”