In the wake of wildfires on Maui that have killed 96 people as of Sunday and damaged more than 2,200 structures in the historic town of Lahaina, the Vancouver-based Ke Kukui Foundation and Hawaiian Style Grill felt a call to action.
The disaster hit close to home for Kaloku Holt, the executive director of the Ke Kukui Foundation, which aims to preserve and share the Hawaiian/Polynesian culture through education in music, dance, language and arts in addition to hosting the annual Four Days of Aloha festival. He has friends and family on Maui.
“There’s a somber feeling that’s going around the entire island,” Holt said.
Given the strong Hawaiian ties to the Pacific Northwest, going back to the 1820s and the early days of the Hudson Bay Company’s presence, members of the Ke Kukui Foundation know people who are impacted by the fires and are working to get monetary support to those directly affected.
“Hawaii is a place where so many people have great memories and great experiences. It’s loved by people around the world,” Holt said. “I want people to remember that there are real people affected by these catastrophes.”
Holt added that the recovery will be arduous and long and hopes that support for Maui and those impacted will remain strong over the coming months.
“This community is going to be recovering for a long time if they can even recover at all,” he said.
Lachelle Hunt, the owner of Hawaiian Style Grill, said her employees approached her about finding a way to help. Hunt and Hawaiian Style Grill have hosted other fundraisers for educators, first responders and a food bank.
After researching how they could be most effective they decided to donate $65 to the Maui Food Bank for every Aloha Pack sold, which costs $65 and serves six. They ended up donating over $2,300.
“The customers rallied behind it and poured in,” Hunt said. “This is really a credit to them and you know what Vancouver was willing to do to provide some support to the people on Maui.”
As of Aug. 14, no single cause has been determined, however high winds and dry weather likely contributed to the blaze’s speed and growth, according to the New York Times.
According to Honolulu Civil Beat: “A blaze earlier (Aug. 8) had been declared contained just before 9 a.m. But fire reignited in the area a few hours later. The fire burned uncontrolled for hours until it had destroyed virtually the entire town” of Lahaina.
The Lahaina blaze was the third incident firefighters were tackling on the island that day, according to Civil Beat. Many of the island’s roughly 200 firefighters were likely tied up with the other two fires located about an hour’s drive across the island.
Lahaina, located in west Maui, was once the royal capital of Hawaii and has been revered as a sacred place for generations.
Maui is the second largest island by area, behind the island of Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, and the third by population, behind Oahu and the Big Island.
One reason Lahaina is special to Holt is because of the number of Native Hawaiians that owned property and businesses.
It’s “one of the rare places in Hawaii that still has that feeling of being Native-owned,” he said.
How to help
Donations can be made to the Ke Kukui Foundation at: https://givebutter.com/ke-kukui-a-maui.
One thing to note: due to an overwhelming amount of supply donations headed to Maui, the Ke Kukui Foundation is requesting gift cards and monetary donations.
Additionally, checks can be made out to Ke Kukui Foundation with “Maui relief” in the memo and can be mailed to P.O. Box 821792 Vancouver, WA 98682. The Ke Kukui Foundation is partnered with the Unitus Community Foundation and is accepting gift card donations at all Unitus branch locations during operating hours. Unitus will also be accepting cash donations. For branch locations and hours visit https://www.unitusccu.com/branches/.
Assistance for Maui residents affected by the fire can be sent to the Maui Strong Fund overseen by the Hawai’i Community Foundation at https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong.
Donations for food assistance can be sent to the Maui Food Bank, with every dollar donated proving four meals to people in need, at https://mauifoodbank.org/donate/.