Friday, March 18, 2011

Message from NC Department of Commerce in Tokyo

A number of people have asked us if we can recommend any way to help the victims of last Friday’s earthquake and tsunami, several specifically asking if we can suggest organizations that can make good use of donations. Here are some suggestions and a bit of background on one organization that we are involved with.
  • The Japanese Red Cross Society is an integral part of relief efforts in the current crisis as they are in disasters around the world (
  • The American Chamber of Commerce in Japan has set up a disaster relief fund (
  • Second Harvest Japan is fully engaged in getting food and other essential supplies to the victims ( The website accepts credit card contribution denominated in Japanese yen. For reference 10,000 Japanese yen equals approximately US $120.00. (
We have been volunteering with Second Harvest Japan for a number of years. Leland wrote and maintains the current business plan, made the financial models we use, and serves on the Professional Advisory Board. Carolyn volunteers in fundraising activities. We can personally vouch for the integrity, frugality, and efficiency of the organization and its operations.
Second Harvest Japan (2HJ) is Japan’s first and largest food bank. In 2010 we distributed 800 tons of food to over 500 agencies all across Japan. This food goes to orphanages, women’s shelters, single mothers, low-income elderly, and anyone in need of emergency food supplies. Regular operations include food banking, food pantry, and hot meal programs. But in a crisis such as this, 2HJ shifts to providing emergency food and supplies to emergency shelters in the worst affected areas.
Some of you in Japan may know the organization and some of its key people. Shortly after the earthquake, Charles (2HJ’s Executive Director) was heading into the hardest hit areas to assess needs and set up distribution operations. Akimoto-san started calling on companies in Tokyo to secure emergency supplies beyond our normal food sources. Now our trucks are moving food and supplies to the emergency shelters and we are using our infrastructure to supply other organizations that can provide transport. I could tell you that the more you donate, the more we will deliver during this crisis but those of you who know Charles understand that at a time like this, he is going to go full speed ahead and worry about paying for it all later. That mindset is in the DNA of the organization and, though worrisome from a fiscal point of view, it is part of what makes 2HJ a valuable community resource.
With continued contributions, 2HJ will continue to support the victims after the crisis subsides. So many people have lost their homes and their livelihoods that their needs will not go away when the emergency shelters are finally closed. 2HJ will be there to assist through regular food banking and food pantry operations.
If you are not familiar with food banking, the basic premise is that food companies dispose of vast quantities of perfectly good food. The most common reasons are packaging or labeling problems or a variety of issues that in no way impacts the quality of the food inside. These companies incur significant costs for disposal and the food goes to waste. Food banking rescues these food resources, saves companies money on disposal, and channels the food to people in need. We do not buy food. Instead we invest in the infrastructure to collect and redistribute available food and in so doing, we create significant leverage. For every dollar invested in 2HJ, we strive to deliver 10 dollars worth of food.
Japan is a wealthy country and most people are well provided for; however, a growing number of people are caught in the gaps within the system. Japan is a thoroughly developed country in nearly every way except in the non-profit sector. As a result, Japan lacks the social safety net usually provided by non-profits in other countries to meet the needs of the growing number of people that do not fit neatly in the existing system. 2HJ strives to set an example in Japan of what an NPO can be –a business-friendly, professionally-managed, reliable, value-creating business partner fully invested in the business success of our contributors and food company partners.
If you would like to donate, your contribution will be put to good use. If you are in Japan and you feel your company would like to be involved with 2HJ in some way, please let us know and we will facilitate a meeting sometime after the situation here has stabilized.
Please feel free to share this message with anyone you think would have interest.
Thank you for your concern and for allowing us to make this pitch for an organization near and dear to us.
Carolyn & Leland Gaskins

1 comment:

  1. Just want you to know our thought are with you