How to help the victims of the Maui wildfire in Hawaii

Aug 11, 2023, 4:04 PM

Maui fires climate change...

Smoke and flames fill the air from raging wildfires on Front Street in Lahaina on the Hawaiian island of Maui on Aug. 8, 2023. Maui officials say wildfire in the historic town has burned parts of one of the most popular tourist areas in Hawaii. (Photo: Alan Dickar via AP)

(Photo: Alan Dickar via AP)

The wildfire that brought devastation to the Hawaiian island of Maui has revealed a wasteland of burned out homes and obliterated communities that has claimed dozens of lives, making it the deadliest in the U.S. in five years.

The fire took the island by surprise, racing through the historic town of Lahaina, a tourist destination that dates to the 1700s and is the biggest community on the island’s west side. Thousands of residents have been forced to abandon their homes, pets and possessions.

Many people are seeking ways to support the response and provide relief to those affected.

Philanthropy experts recommend giving to experienced organizations that are well-situated to respond to a specific disaster. Major disaster response organizations like the American Red Cross have said they are already communicating with local and federal governments to provide assistance.

Regine Webster, vice president of the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, urged potential donors to support organizations with deep local ties and knowledge of the impacted communities.

“To the extent that we can all slow down, wait a week, wait two weeks, to understand where the greatest needs are, and then look toward organizations that are really meeting those needs, again, prioritizing organizations with specific disaster expertise and organizations that are local in nature,” Webster said.

Beware of charity scams

Direct donations to individuals or families can be a powerful way to make an impact, but potential donors should be careful in responding to appeals on social media for donations to individuals, through electronic payment apps like Venmo or Cash App, The Associated Press explains.

Hawaii Attorney General State Anne Lopez is urging people to use caution when choosing where to send money and donations to help communities affected by the Maui wildfires.

“I know that the people of Hawaii will come to the aid of our families, neighbors and communities,” Lopez said in a statement. “We are already seeing various fundraising efforts being promoted on social media platforms and online. In moments of crisis, we all must be extra vigilant against bad actors who try to take advantage of people’s goodwill.”

Advice from the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General includes choosing trusted, well-known charities and verifying that a charity is legitimate. Consider visiting the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search website and Charity Navigator.

Where you can donate

The Maui Strong | Fire Relief Fund: Bonneville Seattle is joining fundraising efforts for the “Maui Strong | Fire Relief Fund” to help those devastated by wildfires in Hawaii, through the Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF).

Donate to the Maui Strong | Fire Relief Fund

Hawaii Community Foundation: The organization started a Maui Strong Fund to support residents affected by the wildfires, which firefighting crews continue to battle in Lahaina, Pulehu/Kīhei and Upcountry areas, according to a press release from the County of Maui. Donations can be made at www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong.

American Red Cross of Hawaii: Money and volunteers are needed at redcross.org/hawaii, said Matthew Wells, regional communications director, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“Ninety cents of every dollar goes right back into the mission,” Wells said, according to the paper. “That’s cots, that’s blankets, that’s food, everything that we provide.”

“The second thing would be the gift of time. We need volunteers,” he added.

The Salvation Army: The organization is providing food and resources for evacuees. The organization is accepting donations for Maui on its Hawaii site, hawaii.salvationarmy.org.

Maui United Way: The charitable institution is accepting donations to its Maui Fire and Disaster Relief fund at https://mauiunitedway.org/disasterrelief.

The Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement (CNHA): According to its website, the non-profit is partnering with Kamehameha Schools, Alaka’ina Foundation Family of Companies and Kāko’o Haleakalā to match up to $1,000,000 in community donations for ‘ohana impacted by the devastating wildfires on Maui. You can donate here.

Maui Mutual Aid Fund: This group of volunteers who work to collect money and donations. It is asking for people in the community to donate what they can to help those struggling, KITV 4 in Hawaii reports.

“All funds will be distributed as quickly as possible to vulnerable ‘Ohana in need, kupuna, persons with physical disabilities, renters and those who have no insurance or are underinsured,” the organization shared on Instagram. The post also contains various ways to contact the organization if you’re interested in helping.

Maui Food Bank: The organization is accepting both drop-off donations at various locations across the island and cash online, mauifoodbank.org/donate.

Specifically, the charity has, via its website, requested the following items for physical donations: Rice, canned protein (pop-tops), canned meals (pop-tops), snacks, protein and breakfast bars, peanut butter, jelly, baby food, diapers, feminine hygiene products, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, paper towels and other toiletries.

GoFundMe: The company’s community “is coming together to help people who are raising money to support community relief efforts,” its website reads. “Donate to verified Maui wildfires relief fundraisers today to help people rebuild and recover. The company added its Trust & Safety team will keep updating its page with more fundraisers as they are verified.” You can contribute here: https://www.gofundme.com/c/act/wildfire-relief/maui

Maui Humane Society: The organization whose mission is “to protect and save the lives of Maui’s animals” is asking for emergency foster homes for its animals and to file a report with them if you found a pet. In addition, pet food and supplies, are also needed. If you just want to donate money on the organization’s website, head here: https://www.mauihumanesociety.org/donate-olx

Contributing: Steve Coogan, L.B. Gilbert, The Associated Press

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How to help the victims of the Maui wildfire in Hawaii