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Minneapolis small business owners Erdogan and Yildiz Akguc, fundraising to support Turkish earthquake relief, know what the survivors are up against. They survived their own Turkish disaster.

The owners of Mapps Coffee in the Midtown Global Market on E. Lake Street have raised more than $17,000 from friends, family and customers through GoFundMe for relief from the devastating Turkish earthquakes in February that killed and displaced hundreds of thousands.

"The money is not going to the government, which is not organized very well," said Erdogan Akguc. "The money is going to this good organization for disaster relief. There's no politics. Our friends and customers have been very generous."

The charity is "Ahbap," which is Turkish for "friend."

Turkish immigrants Erdogan and Yildiz Akguc are parents of two adult children.

Erdogan Akguc, 63, immigrated at age 10. He graduated from the former Minneapolis West High School and studied engineering at the University of Minnesota. He also builds houses.

Erdogan and Yildiz, who met while Erdogan was visiting Turkey in the 1980s, know something about earthquakes.

The Akgucs and their then-young children were visiting Istanbul in 1999 to see relatives and friends. Early one morning, the building in which Yildiz's parents lived started to shudder.

"I thought the building was coming down and that we would be buried," Yildiz recalled.

The Akgucs and other families rushed out to a courtyard. They then walked with a growing crowd several blocks away from buildings, to the shore of the Sea of Marmara.

More than 20,000 people died in the 1999 earthquake that was less damaging than the quake in February. Yildiz knew one of them, a friend of a cousin.

"She was a mother, in her 20s, who went back into her apartment to get the drapes and baby food," Yildiz recalled. "Her house collapsed."

The Akgucs canceled their plans to vacation on the Mediterranean. They left their kids with Yildiz's family.

"We used our vacation money to rent a truck and bought supplies," Erdogan recalled. "We drove to where there was damage. It was a tough situation. There were people buried under the rubble. People were weeping.

"I can't remember exactly how we pulled it off, but we got what we needed. We bought and packed the truck with blankets and food. People in Istanbul saw us. They gave us jackets and shirts and other things. We drove to the damaged areas and distributed goods."

That went on for several days, and the Akgucs exhausted their time and funds.

The Turkish government, which this year has been criticized internationally for its disorganized-to-politicized response, has estimated the death toll at 50,000-plus. Others suggest it's more than 200,000, based on the number of residential buildings that collapsed.

The earthquake destruction in Turkey and neighboring Syria in February drew an international response.

The Russian war on Ukraine helped Minneapolis-based Alight, the international relief-and-development nonprofit, increase donations significantly from individuals last year. Turkey and Syria are less publicized, although there have been some related donations.

"The increase in giving has been almost exclusively restricted to Ukraine," Alight spokesman Chris Kindler said. "We haven't seen an increase in unrestricted, annual fund giving and donors to Alight. The sort of funding that allows us to act quickly and flexibly in crisis. And do some basic renovations to shelters to make them habitable for families or launch innovative programs and solutions supporting displaced people.

"We are hopeful that we can convince these 'emergency donors' to become ongoing Alight supporters."

The Akgucs embody the valiant minority who have raised funds and also provided hands-on help. Their memories of the work have gotten foggy. They just remember other citizens who helped distribute aid selflessly. And cooperation from police and soldiers.

"It felt good to do something," Erdogan recalled.