La Cañadans this week joined people across the world watching the news out of Japan, where Friday’s 9.0 earthquake and resulting tsunami set the country up for a possible nuclear meltdown of disastrous proportions.

No sooner had word of the massive quake reached us than we began hearing from community members with deep concerns for the people of Japan. Some locals told me they drove over to the Rose Bowl Monday to make donations at an outpost set up there by the American Red Cross, which in turn sent the funds to the Japanese Red Cross for relief efforts. Other such events were held during the week, including one at Dodger Stadium, and no doubt more will be organized.

We received a press release Friday from La Cañada Presbyterian Church announcing that a special offering was collected at all three of the church’s services last Sunday, with the funds to be split between the Red Cross and the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance Program.

“While our financial gifts cannot replace the lives lost, it is our hope that they can be an expression of God’s comfort during this difficult time,” Associate Pastor for Family Ministries Kristin Leucht stated in the news release.

We haven’t heard from other local churches or organizations on the subject yet, but I imagine they, too, will do what they can to lend a hand. And, based on past experience here, there’s every reason to believe La Cañada youths will be coming up with creative ways to assist the people of Japan as well.

The quake prompted other thoughts, too, not the least of which was how safe we’ll be when the next large shaker strikes here. Valley Sun reader Trent Sanders, who takes disaster preparedness very seriously, volunteered to write a column on the subject for this week’s paper. You’ll find it in our Forum section. In his piece, Sanders offers common-sense guidance to those who have not yet put together their earthquake kits.

Unfortunately, there are also opportunists who can hardly wait to take advantage of a crisis situation to boost their revenue. (Surely none of them are from our town!) I found it really distasteful Tuesday to receive an e-mail from a Texas company that wanted newspapers to get the word out about a natural product it sells “proven to revitalize your body and protect from radiation exposure.” I’m bracing for more of these assaults. Can TV commercials offering a memorial coin or other “souvenir” of the disaster be far behind?

Commercialism aside, it is a generosity of spirit that drives good works on behalf of people in need. It’s the trait we can admire most in people—and, we’ve learned, rely on when disaster visits us.

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Completely coincidentally, there are two special events in La Cañada this weekend that put the spotlight on Japan: The inaugural Cherry Blossom Festival at Descanso Gardens on Saturday and Sunday and the Kiwanis Club of La Cañada’s showing Saturday night of the travelogue “JapanLand,” the latest installment of the club’s travel film series, which is screened in the Flintridge Prep auditorium.

Attending either or both of these events might enrich your knowledge of the culture of the country that we all need to rally behind.

CAROL CORMACI is managing editor of the Valley Sun. E-mail her at ccormaci@valleysun.net or carol.cormaci@latimes.com.