From teams of determined locals to A-list Hollywood stars, many in Santa Monica had the same goal this month, getting help for struggling victims of the terrible Maui fire tragedy.
Earlier in August, the Hawaiian island of Maui was ravaged by several deadly wildfires. As of Tuesday, the death toll from the fires stands at 115 fatalities, with another 388 people still unaccounted for. Hawaii Gov. Josh Green announced Tuesday that the search for victims on-land has ended, and the search will be moving to ocean locales.
“Right now, we have people diving and looking into the water,” Green told the press on Tuesday. “Most of the fatalities up to the first 80 were individuals who were quickly determined … we’re grateful that when we delayered the multiple larger buildings, that we didn’t find large numbers of people.”
Maui fire evacuations began on Aug. 8 as fires flared up, specifically the Lahaina fire, which eventually burned approximately 2,170 acres and 2,200 structures. The separate Olinda and Kula fires have burned 1,081 and an estimated 202 acres, respectively.
Santa Monica groups have been in action ever since the fires sprung up, aiding the residents of the tourist destination. Cheryl Clark, president of the Assistance League of Santa Monica, knows the importance of Maui and Hawai’i for Southern Californians.
“Most of us have been to Maui … if you’ve lived here long enough, you’ve probably been at least once or twice,” Clark said. “It’s sort of like your vacation playground, you can do it cost-effectively, it’s exotic and it’s pretty close.”
The Assistance League, which raises funds for ongoing charitable endeavors such as scholarship funding and other educational needs, listened to a long-time member of the group who suggested doing a Maui fundraiser. After throwing ideas around, Clark and her team decided to choose one day, Aug. 24, to have all proceeds from their thrift shop go towards the Maui Food Bank. In turn, the food bank uses the money to purchase emergency supplies and other goods for victims of the blazes.
In all, the thrift shop proceeds totaled over $2,400, with Clark saying the direct funding was an easier way to give back than past fundraisers involving clothing donations.
“We’ve learned that oftentimes, when these disasters happen, people automatically start donating clothing and things like that,” Clark said. “And then that creates a logistical nightmare for the people on the ground, because they don’t really have the manpower to go through the stuff and sort. It’s really more beneficial to send funds so that the money can be spent on what is needed immediately.”
“You can’t even imagine your entire … town just burning to the ground … so we wanted to help. We wanted to do our little part,” Clark said.
Another fundraiser that took place on Aug. 24 was at the Night Market at The Bungalow, with high-profile celebrities such as “Aquaman” star Jason Momoa and “Desperate Housewives” star Eva Longoria on the scene doing their part. Proceeds from the event totaled over $25,000, going to the Hawai’i Community Foundation’s Maui Strong Fund and the Maui Humane Society. The Fairmont Miramar Hotel and The Bungalow gave a $5,000 donation for the causes.
More local efforts included a recent “Moms for Maui” brunch benefit with donations going toward the Makai Foundation, focused on rebuilding Maui after the fires.