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Columnist Olivia Garcia

It's been a little more than a week since the horrendous Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) ripped through Philippines, affecting 13 million men, women and children. And although the incident is more than an arm's reach from Bakersfield, that hasn't stopped the local residents, including the Filipino community, from working with the local Red Cross and organizing drive efforts to support victims.

Bakersfield resident Jay Tamsi, who wears multiple hats in the community, including CEO and president of the Kern County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and president of the Filipino Community of Delano, has been unusually busy over the past week, meeting with local residents with families affected by the typhoon and collecting funds as part of local drives.

At least two drives have been held in recent days involving local business and individual support in Bakersfield and Delano, as well as various Filipino organizations, clubs and businesses, to collect donations that would benefit families caught in the post-recovery period of Haiyan. The tragedy has killed a few thousand and injured thousands more, including children. In addition, more than a thousand victims remain missing.

On Sunday, Tamsi said a Haiyan relief fund drive took place at the Filipino Community Hall in Delano. A similar drive was held in Bakersfield on Friday.

He added that the groups worked in partnership with the American Red Cross and other relief groups in the drive, including ABS-CBN and UNICEF. Again, the generosity of Kern County residents shines. So far, more than $171,000 has been raised through the Red Cross and Kern County efforts, Tamsi said. On Sunday, more than $30,000 was raised in Delano, Tamsi said.

"Once again, I am overwhelmed with the generous support of Kern County," Tamsi said. "Yes, it is a sad occasion. However, the community came together to extend their support to the victims of this tragic and devastating typhoon."

Tamsi explained that he has been in touch with local Filipino residents, and a number of them who have distant relatives and friends back in the Philippines are troubled that they have not been able to make contact with loved ones. Others are upset over the deaths, illnesses and health concerns stemming from the effects of the typhoon.

"My heart is heavy to those lost, injured and families suffering from devastation," Tamsi said. "I feel we, as the community of Kern County, made a difference in sending aid to our brothers and sisters in the Philippines. We did what we could in a short amount of time. I feel good about our efforts. Now all we can do is pray for each and every individual and family."

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Pay-it-forward veteran

My husband, Julio, and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary on Veterans Day and decided to commemorate the evening by having dinner at Kan Pai in northwest Bakersfield, at the recommendation of my nephew, Steven Reyes. We did not realize, however, what an extra treat we would be given.

Deciding on teppanyaki, my husband and I sat at a table with a family who was also out celebrating a special moment, this one in honor of Donald Jean Salmon. Salmon turned 83 years young on Nov. 11 (Veterans Day), and the family was not only toasting his birthday, but they were also paying tribute to his 60th wedding anniversary to his wife, Evelyn. The sweet, genuine couple was joined by their daughter, Debbie Trussell, and husband, John, son Phil Salmon, and grandson Brandon Trussell and his girlfriend, Sonia Vera.

We were happy to learn that Salmon served as a staff sergeant in the Air Force while stationed in Japan in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. He was in one of the first groups sent to Korea.

Although we were not part of their small party, my husband and I did partake in their special family celebration, noting we had something in common: a wedding anniversary and a veteran. And my husband, who is a Marine Reserves sergeant and served active duty for eight years before going into law enforcement, was quick to exchange military stories with Salmon, whom Julio acknowledged as "Staff Sgt." as a term of respect throughout the evening.

We were inspired to sit with a veteran and his wife celebrating so many years together. We even shared in the cupcake eating and birthday singing. However, an even bigger surprise was that Salmon left us with a special gift: He paid for our dinner without our knowledge. We were deeply touched by this veteran's kind gesture of paying it forward. We would like to personally thank him and his family for allowing us to be a part of their celebration.

Thank you for making our night and for serving our country. In the future, we hope to pay it forward in the same kind, selfless and giving manner.

Olivia Garcia is editor of Bakersfield Life and BWell magazines and a columnist of The Bakersfield Californian. These are her opinions, not necessarily those of The Californian. Send her tips at