San Marino resident Jessica Reed woke up last Wednesday morning to a text message from an old friend asking if her mother was safe.
Her throat tight, she started to scour and absorb the news — a deadly wildfire had torn through her hometown of Lahaina, Hawaii, overnight, scorching the city to the ground and sending people there running for their lives, even jumping into the ocean to escape the lethal flames.
Her mother had been staying in Napili, another town about 15 minutes away from Lahaina, but Reed waited with bated breath until receiving confirmation the next day that her mom was indeed safe. Others were not so lucky. As of Tuesday, the death count stood at 99, and officials expect it to rise with about 1,000 people still missing, according to news reports. The Maui fires are now the deadliest in the United States in the last century.
“I mourn for my hometown and all the families affected by this devastation; their lives, homes, their pets… it’s all gone,” Reed said. “The fire moved so quickly into town that most had to evacuate by foot leaving everything behind. It’s unimaginable that an entire town can burn so quickly like that.”
Reed — who was born and raised in the historic town of Lahaina, on Maui Island — had close friends whose parents perished. Others who were able to escape in time lost their homes, pets and vehicles. Reed’s childhood homes burned to ash.
“We are absolutely heartbroken that my hometown burned down and my extended family, friends, classmates and many others lost their homes and have had family members and pets perish in the fire,” she said.
Reed and her husband, Christopher, a longtime San Marinan, are spearheading a donation drive this Saturday, Aug. 19, from 9 a.m. to noon in the front yard of their home at 2834 Carlaris Road to help victims of the fire in desperate need of supplies and essential items.
Donation items in need include Hydro Flasks or Nalgene water bottles (local water sources are contaminated after the fires and officials are working to set up water stations), coolers, baby formula, baby food, diapers, wipes, toiletries, feminine hygiene products, cots, air mattresses, clean bedding (pillows, blankets, sleeping bags), suitcases or duffle bags to put their belongings in, trash bags, plastic bins/totes, flashlights, batteries, tents, pet supplies, Target and Walmart gift cards, cell phone chargers, new gas cans and nonperishable food.
The Reeds posted the flyer for the donation drive on social media and have been overwhelmed by fellow neighbors wanting to help. The Reeds’ daughter, 7-year-old Chelsea, attends Carver Elementary School, where they also have received an outpouring of support.
“Many, many people in San Marino visit the beautiful island of Maui on a regular basis and in particular, know Lahaina,” said Reed, who also lived in Lahaina for a few years with her husband. “We are so thankful to receive support from our community here in San Marino. I’m grateful to all the people wanting to help, packing up items or dropping them off.”
The Reeds are sorting out the details on how to deliver the donations, depending on the amount, but already have a grassroots distribution network of family and friends ready in Maui. Residents there will receive 100% of the donations, Reed said.
For anyone who would like to donate directly to nonprofit organizations, Reed suggested verified donation funds such as Maui United Way, Hawaii Community Foundation, Maui Food Bank, the Maui Humane Society and Maui Rapid Response.
For more information, Reed can be reached at email@example.com or (808) 344-3125.