The “Oysters and Pearls” event begins at 5 p.m. and features a buffet of local foods, a taiko drumming group from Los Angeles and a silent auction. All proceeds will go to disaster relief in Toba — Santa Barbara’s oldest sister city — which accrued $24 million in damages from the 8.9 magnitude earthquake.
Santa Barbara-Toba City Organization President Linda Mathews said the area received relatively little aid in comparison to more devastated regions of the island.
“There has not been a lot of press about the southern Japanese situation since southern residents have been hesitant to let people know about their damage in comparison to northern regions,” Mathews said. “If we don’t step up to the plate and help our sister city, no one else will.”
Toba Mayor Ken Kida said the funds will assist the residents struggling to support themselves.
“The people of Santa Barbara’s sympathy is greatly appreciated and Toba city would humbly accept donations from Santa Barbara,” Kida said in a press release. “Any help would be appreciated by the victims.”
The sister-city organization formed in 1966 and has since sponsored several trips between the continents including an annual exchange program for Santa Barbara junior high school students. Following the 1990 Painted Cave Fire in Santa Barbara, Toba donated $16,000 to replant trees in burnt areas of Tucker’s Grove Park.
Mathews said tonight’s benefit aims to match their generosity and has already raised over $18,000 through ticket sales and donations.
“It’s amazing that a city of about 25,000 people donated that much money to us,” Mathews said. “We owe them for their earlier kindness and, given the state Japan is in, how could we possibly be even less generous?”
Mathews said the fundraiser will benefit the industries hit hardest by the disaster.
“Most of the seaweed and oyster beds belong to small family farmers, so the disaster has really hit local family pocketbooks,” Mathews said. “Unlike donating to Red Cross and other donations where you don’t know where or when money will be used, we really wanted to do something for an identifiable group of people in Japan.”
Kristina Kiyama, a third-year computer science major, said the fundraiser holds special significance for her relatives in Japan.
“Having family in Japan directly affected from the tsunami makes this event even more important for me,” Kiyama said. “When you really see how such a disaster affects families you really are inspired to do anything you can to help. I hope students can find it in them to donate even a little something to such a good cause.”
Tickets for the event are sold out but the organization is still accepting contributions in any denomination. Checks should be labeled “Donation” and made out to SBTSCO at Oysters and Pearls, 10 Fairwood Lane, Santa Barbara, CA, 93103.
For more information, call (805) 964-7559.