Liza Greene contributed to this article
The destructive fires that recently swept through Hawai’i’s Maui and the Big Island now stand as one of the deadliest wildfire incidents in U.S. history. With response efforts underway, organizations and local residents are mobilizing to support displaced families and individuals, farmers, and hospitality workers.
The fires consumed homes, displacing thousands of Hawaiian residents. The official death toll currently stands at 99, but is likely to climb in the coming days as search crews continue their efforts, says Hawai’i Governor Josh Green. Among the areas most affected by the destruction is the historic town of Lahaina—a significant economic, political, and cultural center for Native Hawaiian communities—on Maui.
While the cause of the wildfires has yet to be determined, Green says that the state was experiencing particularly dry conditions. And with the nearby Hurricane Dora bringing high winds to the region, flames spread quickly and aggressively.
To support communities affected by the fires, many nonprofits are taking urgent action to help those in need and they are looking for support.
The World Central Kitchen (WCK) is working with chefs to prepare fresh meals. “I haven’t slept in two days,” says Lee Anne Wong, Executive Chef of the restaurant Papa’aina, who is partnering with WCK. “That’s the one thing about the Hawaiian community is that we know how to take care of each other. We have whole communities coming together right now.”
And other organizations including the Hawaii Ag & Culinary Alliance and Hawaii Agricultural Foundation are providing relief for food systems workers, from farmers to bartenders. Funds will help workers displaced by the fires and support food producers as they recover from the damage.
Whether you can offer in-person assistance, donate food and clean water, or contribute to a fundraiser, here are nine organizations to consider supporting to help Hawaiian communities recover from the wildfires.
The Hawaii Ag & Culinary Alliance teamed up with the Hawaii Agricultural Foundation to raise money to support farmers, ranchers, and hospitality workers. Donors can contribute to the General Kokua Fund, which will be distributed among a variety of employers in the hospitality industry, or designate a specific business to support. Donations can also be made out to farmers and ranchers to help them recover from their losses and rebuild their farms. To do so, select “Designate a restaurant or hospitality employer located between Lahaina and Kapulaua” and write “Farmers” in the box.
Hawai’i Community Foundation uses strategic charitable investments to help create a more equitable and vibrant Hawai’i. They recently launched the Maui Strong Fund to support local nonprofits who are providing food, shelter, and financial assistance to those impacted by the wildfires. The funds raised, which already total US$1 Million for fire relief, will be pooled and allocated to evolving needs. Donate here.
Through advocacy, education, and networking, the Hawai’i Restaurant Association works to support a favorable environment for everyone to thrive in the foodservice industry. They are asking for donations to provide urgently needed food, clean water, medical supplies, and shelter for those affected by the fires in Maui. Funds will also go toward long-term assistance. Donate here.
For 50 years, Hawai’i People’s Fund has supported grassroots social change movements in the area. After the outbreak of the wildfires, they launched the Maui Aloha: The Peopleʻs Response to provide immediate relief to those on Maui who have been directly impacted. Donate here. Organizations can also apply for one of Hawai’i People’s Fund’s Urgent Action Grants to help them provide assistance and respond to the changing needs of community members.
Maui County’s primary safety net for hunger relief, the Maui Food Bank is accepting food and toiletry donations in person, as well as monetary donations online. For every US$1 dollar donated, the organization can provide four meals to those in need. The organization also offers guidance to help individuals hold a virtual food drive in support of the Food Bank’s work.
Maui Rapid Response is a collective disaster response organization made up of individuals from Maui-Mutual-Aid, Maui-Strong, and a number of nonprofit and direct-aid organizations. Those with water, food, toiletries, and other necessities to donate can review the needs of local donation drop-off sites or you can donate to their mutual aid fund here. Volunteers in the area can also fill out a form to offer housing, assist with cleanup, and more. And organizations in need of support can complete a short application to receive funding.
7. Nā Kama Kai
Started by a local pro-surfer, Nā Kama Kai is a nonprofit that focuses on teaching children about ocean safety, conservation, and stewardship. The organization is collecting supplies for families affected by the fires, which can be dropped off Monday-Friday from 10:00AM-6:00PM. Those able to offer monetary support can also donate funds directly to Nā Kama Kai, helping them purchase supplies as needs change and evolve.
The Olowalu Farm is run by Regenerative Education Centers, a locally owned and operated eco-education nonprofit near Lahaina focused on regenerative lifestyles. The organization has launched a fundraiser to help pay for the fire effort. Staff and volunteers are also operating an off-grid shelter with their own power, plumbing, and food to provide support to displaced residents. To volunteer in person, contact the Centers’ team members Eddy or Sam; contact details can be found here.
Chef Jose Andres’s World Central Kitchen (WCK) launched Chefs for Hawai’i to help communities on Maui and Big Island hit the hardest by the fires. To date, WCK’s Relief Team has provided more than 16,000 meals to first responders and families in need. To help as many people as possible, WCK is also working with two organizations, Common Ground Collective and Chef Hui, who mobilized local chefs to prepare meals at a local community college. Anyong looking to support these efforts can donate directly to WCK here, Common Ground Collective here, or Chef Hui here.
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Photo courtesy of Kahunapule Michael Johnson, Wikimedia Commons