Seattle grieves for and gives to Maui at the Hawaii General Store

Aug 11, 2023, 5:15 PM | Updated: 6:54 pm

The Hawaii General Store in Seattle...

The Hawaii General Store in Seattle. (Photo: Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio)

(Photo: Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio)

Western Washington has a large Hawaiian community that is heartbroken about the deadly wildfires on Maui and the Big Island. But it also is taking action.

“I think it was the quickness that it all happened that floored most of us. The feeling of impossibility. How could Hawaii just burn so fast?” Gail Stringer, a former Honolulu resident who owns the Hawaii General Store in Seattle, said.

The number of lives lost, the amount of property and history destroyed are still not fully known.

“I just find myself just crying. We are hugging a lot of people,” she said. “A lot of people have been walking in just shell-shocked and they don’t know what to do with it.”

The atmosphere inside the store on NE 45th Street feels almost balmy — even for rainy Seattle — with fragrant leis, ukuleles, traditional clothing for sale, and Hawaiian music playing in the background.

When people enter the store, they are transported to the islands.

Maui Strong: Fundraiser to directly help victims of Hawaii wildfires

“I really wanted to create a place where people could come and feel a sense of aloha,” Stringer explained.

Image: The Hawaii General Store in Seattle

The Hawaii General Store in Seattle. (Photo: Heather Bosch, KIRO Newsradio)

She and her customers know the significance of the leis.

“Anytime anyone comes into this store to buy a lei they are giving it to somebody, whether it’s for a memorial service, or a birthday, or a graduation. There’s just this way that a lei has this ability to say what it needs to say without any words. Whatever the context is the lei just does it.”

So leis, are now part of a fundraiser.

“What we’re doing is for everyone who buys a lei, up until the Live Aloha Festival, we’re going to give these profits to Maui Strong.”

Where you can donate: How else to help the victims of the Maui wildfire

The fundraiser will continue until Sept. 10.

She says you can go to the Hawaii General Store’s website and Facebook page to see specific items needed in Hawaii that community members can drop off at her store, and they will work to deliver them to Hawaii.

One recommendation: Only donate items being requested because space on flights to Hawaii is limited.

She also suggests donating money to legitimate organizations involved in relief efforts.

Heather Bosch is an anchor and reporter for KIRO Newsradio.

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Seattle grieves for and gives to Maui at the Hawaii General Store