Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Villages raise awareness for needs in Japan
Fontana, Walworth encourage donations to Red Cross effort

by Rob Ireland

May 19, 2011

The aftershocks of a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan couldn’t physically be felt in Fontana and Walworth. However, it tore through the community with its affects on one of the area’s largest manufacturers.

Kikkoman Foods Inc., a Japanese-owned soy sauce manufacturer, has had a plant in Walworth Township for nearly 30 years that provides jobs in the community and has donated to area causes.

In response to the disaster, the villages of Walworth and Fontana and the Fontana Walworth Water Pollution Control Commission proclaimed the month of May 2011 as Japan Disaster Awareness Month. In the proclamation, it urges citizens to contribute to the American Red Cross Japan Disaster Relief Fund.

On March 11, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred off the coast of Japan, which was followed by a large tsunami. More than 14,000 people have died as a result of the two disasters.

For executives at Kikkoman Foods, the responses from the community have been touching. So much in fact the company has penned an open letter that thanks the area for its support.

For local officials approving the proclamation was an important way to support a company that has helped the community.

“Kikkoman has done a lot for this area,” Walworth Village President David Rasmussen said. “To a great extent, it did a lot to put Walworth on the map.”

Fontana Village President Arvid “Pete” Petersen said the Japanese company has been a partner with the communities in the area.

“They have been good partners in the community for all these years and we thought it was important to express some type of gratitude and help with their current disaster,” Petersen said.

Kikkoman Foods also has had a long history in the area.

In 1973, when Rasmussen was a senior at Big Foot High School, he played trombone with the school’s band at the Kikkoman plant’s grand opening ceremony.

At that time, Rasmussen’s mother also helped teach English to the wives of Kikkoman employees.

Micki O’Connell, who serves on sewer treatment board, said it was shocking to watch the footage of the disaster.

“It bothered me a great deal to see the footage,” she said.

However, she said the footage also showed people responding to the disaster by working together and helping each other out.

“It was wonderful to see how they reacted to such a horrific disaster,” she said.

She said the villages can’t provide donations, but the proclamations show the company community support.

“We can’t give financial aid, but we can recognize their hardship,” O’Connell said.