F.C. Lends a Hand With Turkey-Syria Earthquake Aftermath

Last Monday, Turkey, Syria and surrounding areas were struck with a devastating earthquake, leaving millions of people dealing with injuries, homelessness and the fatalities of family and friends. Only one day later, the City of Falls Church and neighboring communities have been doing their part in lending a hand with the relief.

Recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria caused building collapses, many left homeless and without resources. (Photo: Mutlu Kaya)

For some F.C. residents, the earthquake is a reminder that any type of help can make a huge difference. Husband and wife Mustafa and Ozlem Onerci are local organizers for a fundraiser that is raising money for the Turkish Philanthropy Fund’s — a nonprofit organization — Earthquake Relief Fund. According to Onerci, $7 million has been raised so far and more can be donated through donate.tpfund.org/fallschurch.

“To the extent that I know of the Turks and Turkish Americans in F.C., no one was directly impacted,” Onerci said, “but the sorrow that it created is immense in the Turkish American community in F.C. and the larger metro DC region.”

Borek-G Cafe & Market, known around the city for their “Turkish Mom’s Cookin’,” has set up a donation site at their location on 315 South Maple Avenue for those who want to drop off coats, jackets, socks blankets and “whatever [they] can get to help out.” These donations will be taken to the Turkish Embassy
Huseyin Kaygusuz, the owner of Borek-G along with his mother, said once he put out that the market was accepting donations on social media, customers and locals began reaching out to see how they could contribute.

“I think people might realize that even though you might [be able to] only donate a dollar, or even ten cents, the fact that you are doing or saying anything, somebody else notices and gives $1,000,” Kaygusuz said. “Sometimes I feel like instead of making a change, you can spark someone else to make the change.”

The Tinner Hill Hair Salon, owned by Atilla Eren, asked their customers and others to bring in winter clothing, sleeping bags, medicine, diapers and more to send to both Turkey and Syria. Eren stated the Falls Church community was both “generous” and “kindly” in their efforts to help out by donating these items.

“We couldn’t thank Falls Church and the surrounding communities enough,” Eren said.
In the neighboring Fairfax County, members of the Virginia Task Force 1 were deployed to begin helping impacted citizens the same day the earthquake had occurred. 79 members of the force, along with six dogs, are currently working with Turkey’s government to help in rescuing people who may still be trapped in collapsed buildings, as well as provide equipment the country may not have to deal with the devastation.

Mutlu Kaya owns the locally well-known Turkish-Mediterranean restaurant Yayla Bistro, along with his brothers. Kaya stated he talked to his mother — who lives with his father in Turkey — the day before the earthquake about an upcoming visit to the United States in June.

“The next day, she and my father were homeless,” Kaya said. “They just have no shelter.”
Although it took a while for Kaya and his brothers to reach his parents, they were eventually able to learn that they were okay, despite them having to evacuate quickly from their nine-story building before it collapsed.

“I was shaken and didn’t know what to do,” Kaya stated. “We are here now and trying our best to get through this.”

To help those in need in both Turkey and Syria, Yayla Bistro has teamed up with World Central Kitchen — a nonprofit organization that provides meals in response to “humanitarian, climate and community crises.” Kaya said he wanted his restaurant to collaborate with the organization after seeing WCK’s founder José Andrés “reputable” work in Haiti and Ukraine.

“We thought his organization was the best organization to team up with,” Kaya said. “We just wanted to really go to the heart of what happened and help people out.”

The fundraiser Yayla Bistro and World Central Kitchen have set up encourages people to “ensure” that affected individuals will have a warm meal, as Kaya explained that Andrés is giving supplies to restaurants on the ground that are “feeding 40,000 meals a day” due to donations. So far, over $9,000 has been raised towards the listed $15,000 goal.

As for why residents in the city and surrounding areas should donate to fundraisers such as the Bistro’s, Kaya’s answer is a simple one: “If I was in this situation, I would ask [people] to help me.”