CENTERVILLE — The images of shattered communities are stunning. The stories of loss: heart-breaking.

So is there a point at which people tune out because it is too overwhelming?

"Donor fatigue" or "disaster fatigue" can affect many people, if they feel exhausted by the severity or the number of disasters.

"My heart is filled with gratitude for the people of Utah," says Etsuko Chidester. She is not seeing donor fatigue in Centerville.

She helped organize a private fundraiser at Founders Park. Hundreds of people showed up Friday with household items and baked goodies to donate. They also opened their wallets to help the people of Japan.

Chidester served a mission in the areas worst hit by the tsunami and put the event together with a friend.

"We both received so many phone calls from people we know, asking, 'What can we do to help?' "

Those at the fundraiser say they feel a connection to the Japanese people through Japanese friends in their own community.

"Anytime anything happens, everybody needs help, and I hope people will be there all the time," said Kathy Wilkinson. She is one of Chidester's neighbors who contributed to the fundraiser.

But the donations for relief in Japan are coming in slower than for other recent major disasters.

Americans have donated $87 million to Japanese relief efforts, so far. That's less than half of the $210 million donated to Haiti in the same time period — and less than a fifth of the $457 million raised for Katrina in the first six days.

One week ago, the day the earthquake and the tsunami struck Japan, ksl.com had more than 1.5 million page views. Yesterday, that statistic was down to 328,000.

"I don't think there's any way to guard against donor fatigue," said Teresa Zundel, communications director for the Utah Region of the American Red Cross. "We experience it with every disaster."

The American Red Cross has raised nearly three-quarters of the American total, and is pleased with the generosity of the people of Utah and throughout the country.

"There have been so many disasters this last year," Zundel said. "We had Haiti, we had flooding throughout the United States, now we've got Japan and the Pacific. People get tired, and they give what they can, and we really appreciate that."

The Japanese Red Cross expresses tremendous gratitude for all of the donations and compassion from the American people. While ongoing financial contributions will be so important to help the Japanese people survive this disaster, Chidester said what people give from their hearts is just as important.

"I really don't care how much money we can collect," she said. "To see people's kindness is more important to us."

Email: jboal@desnews.com