Fort Worth resident Chris Piekarski escapes often to the Hawaiian island of Maui; his travel tally is close to 100 trips.
Almost every time he visits, he stops and drives through the coastal city of Lahaina.
After last week’s wildfires, the city will be close to unrecognizable when he returns to his “second home.”
How to help:
If you do not want to have to visit Maui in order to help the island recover, there are a few ways to donate to Hawaii, Maui, Lahaina and the island’s residents.
Pineapple Grill: https://www.pineapplegrilltexas.com/maui-strong
American Red Cross: https://www.redcross.org/donate/donation.html/
Hawaii Community Foundation: https://www.hawaiicommunityfoundation.org/maui-strong
Piekarski is headed back to Maui in a few weeks to help in rebuilding efforts following the wildfires that killed at least 114 people and destroyed thousands of homes. Other Dallas-Fort Worth residents, like Native Hawaiians Pomai and Barry Uyehara, are hosting events and raising money for the area’s rebound.
“The island itself, and the people that are there, are just really, really special,” Piekarski said. “It’s a perspective you really can’t appreciate until you’re there. Now, so much of it is gone.”
Piekarski, 71, has been visiting Maui since his early-30s, and was scheduled to visit again on Aug. 12, just four days after the wildfires erupted on the island.
After visiting for the first time as a 31-year-old, Piekarski built a connection with the island that has yet to go away. He’s called to the island, he said. He has many connections on Maui and in Lahaina, and is sent photos and videos of the destruction daily.
“It really is a complete devastation,” Piekarski said. “I don’t know if that [western] side of the island will ever recover again.”
Piekarski emphasized that assistance in rebuilding is necessary; Maui doesn’t have enough willing and able residents to do it all, he said, emphasizing that the rest of the country has a role to play.
Once Pomai and Barry Uyehara caught wind of the fires spreading across their home country, they, too, knew they had to play that role.
Pomai is the owner of Pineapple Grill Texas in Hurst. Her husband, Barry, is the restaurant’s head chef. Natives of the island of Hawaii and having empathy for the neighboring island, the couple began rallying North Texas to raise money for rebuilding Maui and Lahaina.
“Hashtag Maui strong,” Pomai said. “In the wake of this tragedy, we’re committed to making an impact by providing direct assistance where it is needed most.”
Every contribution the Uyeharas receive goes directly toward relieving the financial burden of affected families, they said.
The money goes directly to victims via Zelle, CashApp, PayPal or Venmo, Pomai said. They’re working on getting bios and pictures of the families with needs, so that those donating know exactly who they’re donating to.
After reaching out to a few North Texas hula schools, Midcities Montessori in Bedford and other connections across the area, the pair hosted a fundraising event on Aug. 20. A donation page is also up on the Pineapple Grill website.
Like Piekarski, the Uyeharas recognize that despite the distance, North Texas can play a part in the rebuilding of an island smaller in land area than the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
“Let’s unite in love and resilience and show that no matter the distance, the spirit of aloha knows no bounds,” Pomai said.
Matthew Sgroi is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.