As of Thursday evening, the devastating and deadly wildfire in Maui has claimed the lives of at least 53 people, making it the deadliest wildfire in the United States in recent years. The destruction caused by this wildfire has left the historic town of Lahaina, which is also a popular tourist destination, completely destroyed, leaving behind only memories of what once was. However, amidst the tragedy, the people of Texas are rallying together to lend a helping hand and support the Maui families who have lost everything.
Renee Park, the owner of Aloha Kitchen in San Antonio, expressed her disbelief at the unfolding events, stating, “This is not real. It can’t be happening.” Park has a personal connection to Maui, as 13 of her aunts and uncles live there, with all but two residing in Lahaina. She recounted a chilling account from her cousin, who described the sound of explosions, fire, and smoke, likening the scene to that of a war zone. Park herself has visited Maui every summer since birth, accompanied by her Hula Halau performers, and had just returned from the island last week.
The wildfire struck unexpectedly on Tuesday, wreaking havoc in the neighborhoods of Lahaina and leveling this historic tourist destination, which dates back to the 1700s. Park shared her personal attachment to the town, recognizing landmarks such as the banyan tree and Front Street, where she would often spend time during her visits. Tragically, several members of Park’s family lost their homes, some of which had been cherished for generations. For now, part of her family has found refuge at her grandmother’s house on the beach, awaiting the opportunity to return to their devastated homes.
On Thursday morning, residents of the island were greeted with a glimmer of hope as much-needed rain began to fall in Maui. Gabriel Gallegos, a Houston native residing in Kihei, shared a video depicting the rain on KENS 5, instilling a sense of relief among the locals. Gallegos, embodying the Texan spirit, wasted no time in taking action to help his neighbors. He and his friends delivered food, particularly pizzas and breakfast tacos, to everyone they could, including the Coast Guard and other volunteers. Gallegos intends to establish a non-profit organization to aid in the long journey of rebuilding Maui, urging everyone to contribute and emphasizing that every little bit counts.
Meanwhile, Park is hosting a fundraising event on Friday at Aloha Kitchen in San Antonio to benefit Maui. Participants can support the cause by purchasing authentic Hawaiian food, making monetary donations, or providing clothing. The donations collected will be sent to Maui through the Red Cross. Park’s heartfelt desire to help her family and the island is reflected in her plea for assistance, saying, “Anything you can send, blessings and rainbows… My heart, my memories, I want to help my family… Imua Kakou. ‘Everybody move forward. Let’s all move forward.'”
In addition to the fundraising event, Park has also started a GoFundMe campaign to aid her family during this national emergency. The devastating impact of the wildfire in Maui serves as a reminder of the power of community and the importance of support during times of crisis. Together, the people of Texas and beyond are coming together to extend a helping hand to the families affected by this tragedy and to contribute to the rebuilding of Maui. Located at 1151 Harry Wurzbach, in close proximity to Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, Aloha Kitchen stands as a beacon of hope and assistance in these difficult times.