In August, wildfires erupted on the island of Maui in Hawaii. Governor Josh Green, M.D. announced a state of emergency on August 9, and President Joe Biden declared it a federal major disaster on August 10.
The fires have since impacted approximately 2,170 acres of land, destroyed or damaged 2,207 structures, and completely decimated the town of Lāhainā.
The Pacific Disaster Center and the Federal Emergency Management Agency predict that rebuilding will cost $5.52 billion. Even worse, the fires took the lives of 115 people, making it the most lethal natural disaster the state has ever seen and the most destructive wildfire in the U.S. since the 1918 Minnesotan fires.
When faced with such horrific circumstances, the generosity of humanity is given a chance to shine.
Numerous organizations, companies, and individuals have stepped up to provide aid to those affected.
For example, the Honolulu-based Hawai‘i Community Foundation created the Maui Strong Fund, which has raised $96,428,247 and awarded $13,207,694 in grants as of September 1. The most significant award was $3,500,000 for Maui Economic Opportunity, which offers temporary housing and transportation services. Other grants for $250,000 each went to organizations like the Maui Food Bank and the Salvation Army, which provide food; the American Red Cross, which runs three shelters; and the Footprint Project, which is deploying solar grids to provide emergency power. This is not the only nonprofit action rushing to assist, however: the Hawaii People’s Fund’s Maui Aloha: The Peopleʻs Response campaign, Aloha United Way’s Maui Fire Relief Fund, and the Lonomai Foundation’s Rebuilding Maui campaign are other great resources that are welcoming public contributions.
Photo Courtesy Hawaii Community Foundation.
Corporations spanning multiple industries are also lending a hand. For example, money is flowing from the financial industry:
- Blackstone donated $3,000 in relocation relief and assistance payments to displaced employees of the resorts it owns on the island and $500,000 to the Hawaii Community Foundation and Maui Food Bank.
- The Wells Fargo Foundation gave $100,000 to the Homestead Community Development Corporation, which provides affordable housing and creates jobs on Hawaiian Home Lands reserved for native Hawaiians.
- Several banks, including American Savings Bank, Central Pacific Bank, and First Hawaiian Bank, are waiving ATM fees.
The transportation industry has been rolling up for Hawaiians, as well, assisting both local communities and Hawaii-based employees:
- American Airlines is offering 10 AAdvantage bonus miles for every dollar a customer donates to the Red Cross; the initiative resulted in over $1.2 million in donations by August 22. The airline also assisted in evacuations and supports its Maui workforce through the American Airlines Family Fund.
- Delta Airlines provided $250,000 to the American Red Cross, has raised $16,135 in customer donations, and is helping deliver necessities.
- Hawaiian Airlines sent $150,000 to be split evenly between Hawaiʻi Foodbank, Maui Food Bank, and the Maui Strong Fund and is also providing volunteers to work directly with Hawaiʻi Foodbank. In the first 72 hours of the fires, the airline helped 17,000 evacuate and transported first responders to the island.
- Through its “Accelerate the Good” initiative, Kia America donated $100,000 to the American Red Cross and $50,000 to the Hawaii Community Foundation. It also provides rebates and other payment relief to customers whose products were damaged or facing financial hardship.
- Uber contributed $500,000 to the Maui Strong Fund, in addition to creating an in-app donation button and promising to match the first $500,000 given by Uber and Uber Eats users. Plus, it is providing financial assistance to its local drivers and free rides to shelters and hotels.
The food and grocery sectors are also making a big splash:
- Nestlé USA, for example, is supporting the Maui Strong Fund with a $175,000 donation and matching donations from its employees of up to $25,000. Its subsidiary businesses have already contributed $500,000 in financing and supplies to the relief efforts, too: Purina is supplying $25,000 to Greater Good Charities to support Hawaiian people and animals, and Gerber is gifting baby food in partnership with Feeding America.
- The American Red Cross and Maui Food Bank each received $50,000 from Dole Fruit Hawaii and its parent company, Dole Food Company.
- Hormel Foods brand SPAM has shipped over 264,000 cans of product and made financial contributions worth $1 million. Moreover, it is selling a SPAM® Brand Loves Maui Shirt, with all proceeds headed to Aloha United Way’s Maui Fire Relief Fund.
Photo Courtesy SPAM Brand
Action is also being seen in the world of sports.
All 12 professional sports teams in Los Angeles teamed up to donate $450,000 to the American Red Cross’s relief efforts.
Each team has a connection to the state: the Angels, for example, had a Triple-A team in Honolulu from 1962 to 1970. Others have players who hail from the islands: Alohi Gilman, a safety for the Los Angeles Chargers who grew up in the town of Laie on Oahu, expressed that “Maui isn’t just a place on the map; it’s a part of my homeland, my connection to Hawaii.” Some of the teams are taking action outside of the context of the collective, as well. The Chargers promised at least $50,000, plus the proceeds of the 50/50 Raffle at a preseason game. The Rams likewise donated funds from a 50/50 Raffle, as well as the money made off the sale of custom and signed “Mālama Maui” shirts designed by Saedene Ota, who is from the island, and worn by the team while warming up.
Photo Courtesy Los Angeles Rams
Teams are not the only representation from the sporting world, though; individual athletes are getting involved, as well:
- Golfer Collin Morikawa, whose grandparents were born in Maui and ran The Morikawa Restaurant in Lahaina before moving to California, committed to donating $1,000 for every Birdie he made during the FedExCup Playoffs to Maui United Way and World Central Kitchen.
- Ka’imi Fairbairn, a kicker for the Houston Texans, announced on Instagram that he would donate $250 for every field goal and $100 for every point after touchdown throughout the season to the Lonomai Foundation’s Rebuilding Maui campaign.
Photo Courtesy Ka’imi Fairbairn
Others, both celebrities and ordinary people, are showing up for Hawaii:
- Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson launched the People’s Fund of Maui with $10 million of their own money, inspired by Dolly Parton’s My People Fund, which provided $11 million to Gatlinburg, Tennessee residents whose homes burned down in the 2016 fires. Displaced adults will be given $1,200 monthly from the People’s Fund of Maui. However, criticism has arisen over the amount that the celebrities personally contributed.
- Artist Aida Salehi, who lives on O’ahu, created the Nohoanu Lahaina Relief Print. All proceeds go to the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement’s Match Donation Fund to bring resources to those who need them. The Nohoanu is an endangered plant native to Maui; as Salehi described on her website, “The flower in this piece was chosen for its rarity and current exclusivity to Maui. I decided to add the sun in the background as a reminder through the darkness of the night, the sun always rises.”
- Kian Lutu, whose grandfather lives in Lahaina and went missing during the fires, flew to Maui to find him. Although he was found safe, he received donations from people who wanted to help. He used the first $700 to send water to people in Kula and put the additional $2,000 toward $50 gift cards to distribute to the local community. He explained to NPR,
“Being Hawaiian, we have this word, kuleana. It basically means responsibility. It just felt like it was my responsibility, my kuleana to do whatever I can.”
- 5-year-old Edison Juel, upon returning from a vacation in Hawaii, was devastated to hear about the fires, so he started a lemonade stand with the help of his parents. Over one week, with the generosity of people paying 20 times the cost of a cup and matching donations from his parents’ workplaces, Juel raised more than $17,000 dollars.
Photo Courtesy Aida Salehi
Finally, local Hawaiian businesses, who have witnessed firsthand the impact of the fires on their friends and families, are leading the charge:
- Lahaina-based Maui Brewing Company, the biggest craft brewery in the state, created the Kokua Project – Kokua means “selfless help” – through which breweries around the country will sell a beer with all proceeds going to three charities. The Makai Foundation, one of the recipients, was launched to spearhead the rebuilding effort on Maui. The brewery also established donation centers at three locations.
- For August, L&L Hawaiian Barbecue sent $1 from every app and online order to the American Red Cross, which could total $10,000.
- Twiggy Hawaii, a tote and home goods company, debuted a Yellow + Pink Japanese Limited Edition Pouch Collection, with all of the profits going to the Aloha Diaper Bank Fundraiser, whose Maui Pantry is providing diapers and baby wipes to families in need. Completely sold out, the company donated $1,650 in total.
Photo Courtesy Twiggy Hawaii