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Making a Difference in Maui: The Impact of Business Support on Community Resilience

a pic of businesses helping Maui

The island of Maui has long been considered a special paradise, attracting thousands of tourists annually. Its exquisite beaches, shorelines, and terrain serve as a bucket-list destination for many. However, at the same time, many families call the island home as do many businesses and organizations. Understanding this, it’s perhaps not surprising that the degree of Maui wildfire support has been tremendous from locals. The number of businesses helping Maui in this time of need is impressive and a testament to the community’s resolve. And it highlights once again the community role that businesses play well beyond the products and services they provide.

a panorama of businesses helping Maui
Wildfires have caused devastation, but there are lots of businesses helping Maui now.

Based on recent figures, the death toll from the Maui wildfires has reached a total of 114 individuals. However, only a quarter of the areas affected by these wildfires have been searched thus far. Experts estimate that these figures will double once the search is complete. In addition, it is believed that over 2,200 structures have been destroyed by the wildfires with 86% being residential. Therefore, not only are bereavement services needed but so are Maui wildfire support for those displaced. Certainly, FEMA and the Red Cross are diligently provided services for these purposes. But it is far from adequate in meeting local resident needs. Fortunately, many local nonprofits and businesses helping Maui are filling this void.

“We’re a strong community here in Hawai‘i. We’re all in this together, and we’re in it for the long haul. We’ll rise from this, but it’s going to take time.” – Sheila Sarhangi, Spokesperson for Hawaii Community Foundation (HCF) and its Maui Strong Fund

Support from Local Nonprofit Organizations

Notably, nonprofits like the Red Cross are playing an important role in offering Maui wildfire support. However, these efforts only go so far, which is why local nonprofits are needed. One of the major nonprofit businesses helping Maui involves the Hawaiian Community Foundation. It has been providing community philanthropy to the area for over a century. In response to the wildfires, Hawaiian Community Foundation created the Maui Strong Fund. This fund has as its sole purpose to provide Maui wildfire support to families. To date, it has received over $27 million in donations from donors in 40 different countries. These monies are going directly to on-the-ground organizations providing comprehensive family services.

The Hawaiian Community Foundation may be among the largest nonprofit making a difference. However, it is not the only one. Living Earth Systems is another one of the nonprofit businesses helping Maui cope with the disaster. The organization is a regenerative agricultural center in the region that among other things educates about sustainable farming. However, as part of its Maui wildfire support efforts, it is sheltering those whose homes have been destroyed. All donations they receive go to locals, and services include sustainable energy, plumbing services, and food. Many of these families may choose to become long-term residents of the center and contribute to its sustainable objectives. These are the types of organizations vital to Maui’s community resilience.

(Sustainable farming is big business–read all about it in this Bold story.)

a bunch of hotels, presumably in Maui
Even idyllic tourist spots can suffer natural disasters. Thankfully, there are bold businesses willing to help.

“We are all about bringing our community together. We’re bringing in water, modular solar systems, temporary shelters, and we’re growing food right here.” – Sam Garcia, Operations at Living Earth Systems, a regenerative agricultural non-profit

Outpouring of Help from Local Businesses

Nonprofit organizations aren’t the only businesses helping Maui recover from the wildfires. Several for-profit companies are also making a difference in this regard. Hawaiian Airlines contributed $50,000 to three different support funds. It also provided extensive evacuation services for thousands while flying in first-responders. First Hawaiian Bank has donated $250,000 in relief efforts for Maui wildfire support. They also have waived all ATM fees at the current time. And the Alohilani Resort in Waikiki crated the Love Maui Fund with a goal to raise $1 million for families affected by the wildfires. Thus, it is clear that the outpouring of business support locally has been both extensive and substantial.

One of the notable for-profit businesses helping Maui residents is the Ama OluKai Foundation, a sustainable footwear company. The Ama OluKai Foundation has been serving the Hawaiian community for a decade, and has pivoted their giving model so direct donations are immediately available for Maui recovery efforts. The company plans to match all donations up to the first $300,000. During COVID, when the pandemic impacted tourism, OluKai also provided funding support to farmers, chefs, and restaurants. Thus, it’s not surprising it is also among the private companies giving Maui wildfire support. Between these companies as well as the nonprofit organizational efforts, needs unmet by FEMA are being better addressed.

(Remembering how a global disaster affected tourism can give you insight on how localized disaster can disrupt–read all about it in this Bold story.)

“OluKai has been absolutely devastated by the destruction in Maui. Our hearts are with everyone impacted directly.” – Kerry Konrady, CMO at OluKai

A Notable Impact on the Community

some much needed Maui wildfire support
Maui wildfire support has been expansive, and it’s only growing.

The difference that nonprofits and for-profit businesses helping Maui are making are already evident. In the immediate area, 400 hotel rooms are now available for displaced families. At the same time, 1,400 Airbnb rental homes have also been made accessible. There are also another 160 people offering to share their homes with victims of the wildfires. These measures alone have already reduced the number of people having to stay in shelters in the region. Combined with the other Maui wildfire support highlighted, the level of despair has been reduced. Certainly, these measures will not address the lost lives from the wildfires, but they will provide a foundation for recovery.

In times of crisis, emergency responders, FEMA and major organizations like the Red Cross are essential. But at the same time, so are local community businesses and nonprofits. These form the backbones of our communities, and they are critical resources when disasters strike. Without the types of businesses helping Maui depicted here, the capacity for communities to recover would be markedly reduced. But as the significant Maui wildfire support shows, these businesses represent an important resource to build resilience. These are the insights that all businesses and communities should appreciate based on Maui’s situation.


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