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Former missionaries in Utah organize efforts for Filipino people they served, love

Published: Sunday, Nov. 24 2013 8:32 a.m. MST

A Filipino man walks among debris from damaged homes at typhoon-hit Tacloban city, Leyte province, central Philippines on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013.

Aaron Favila, Associated Press

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SALT LAKE CITY — Returned missionaries in Utah organized various fundraisers Saturday to help the people they once served in typhoon-ravaged areas of the Philippines.

"The situation over in the Philippines is devastating, not only for those there, but for us here, where the Philippines is close to our hearts," said Miles Bell, owner of Dave's Auto Center in Layton and Centerville. He opened his shops on a day that they are typically closed, to collect donations to send overseas.

"We've had a full shop the whole day," said Bell, whose employees also volunteered their time on Saturday.

At the Hawaiian Cultural Center in Midvale, people enjoyed an afternoon filled with locally prepared Filipino food, including lumpia, adobo, pancit and other favorites, plus an assortment of baked goods and sweets.

Money collected at both events was donated to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Humanitarian Aid Fund and the Red Cross, or other efforts, as selected by Bell's customers. The money will be used to provide food and supplies to Filipinos affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which ripped through the islands south of Manila on Nov. 8 with wind speeds as high as 195 mph. Totals for money raised was not immediately available.

The death toll from the storm, which is being called one of the worst ever to make landfall, has surpassed 5,200, with countless others nursing injuries or still missing. Hundreds of thousands were evacuated from their homes when the storm began, but have returned to find only rubble in its place.

"We just wanted to reach out and show them that even though we are halfway across the world, we love them enough to help," Bell said. His family has tried to find a way to return to the Philippines, "but with transportation being wiped out, I have been unable to make arrangements at this time," he said.

Bell asked customers on Saturday to donate a minimum of $50 for each job, which included anything from oil changes to tire rotation, to more extensive repairs. Customers also had the option to bring in their own vehicle parts for needed repairs, or to purchase them wholesale, but all proceeds earned for labor from the day were contributed to the international relief efforts.

"We love cars and we love the people in the Philippines," Bell said. "It's a way to give back in the way that we know best."

The former missionary said he has contacted several of his Filipino friends who are still in the storm-torn country, via social media, but he still hasn't heard from many of them. He is hoping to return to the country as soon as possible to assist with cleanup and reconstruction.

"The people of the Philippines are like my family," Bell said, adding that even though he spent two years of his life serving them, he always felt that they served him more. "I am grateful for the opportunity to do a small service for them."

Email: wleonard@deseretnews.com, Twitter: wendyleonards

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