, , , , , , , ,

2 Wisconsin businesses with ties to Hawaii unite for wildfire relief

Together Ono Kine Grindz market and Na Hale Studios raised $4,000 in one week

Wildfires in Maui
This photo provided by County of Maui shows fire and smoke filling the sky from wildfires on the intersection at Hokiokio Place and Lahaina Bypass in Maui, Hawaii on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. Zeke Kalua/County of Maui via AP

Two Milwaukee-area businesses are raising money for wildfire victims in Hawaii.

Ono Kine Grindz market and deli in Wauwatosa is raising money for Maui Strong and Kokua Restaurant and Hospitality fund. Na Hale Studios, a Hawaiian cultural center in Butler, donated money to the Maui Food Bank.

At least 111 people died in the wildfires last week in Lāhainā, Maui. The fires displaced 11,000 people, and destroyed 2,500 buildings.

Stay informed on the latest news

Sign up for WPR’s email newsletter.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Guy Roeseler owns a Hawaiian market and deli with his partner, David Lau. Roeseler lived in Oahu for 12 years, while Lau is native Hawaiian. Immediately after they heard what happened they felt compelled to help.

“There’s a part of your heart that will always be in Hawaii. It just affects you that way,” Roeseler said.

Ono Kine Grindz’s will donate ten percent of its proceeds to help victims. Roeseler and Lau sent another $1,000 check to the Kokua Restaurant and Hospitality fund Friday morning. Both owners worked in the hospitality industry in Hawaii so they want to support businesses who rely on tourism.

Roeseler said people from all over the area are “coming out of the woodwork” into the store, donating money, and sharing their connections to Hawaii.

“It’s like a family coming back together. In Hawaii we have the concept of ohana, which is family, but it’s extended family, and it means no one left behind,” he said.

The wildfires Aug. 8 were driven by strong winds that drove flames across island communities, destroying the town of Lāhainā.

In the fires’ aftermath, residents have been critical of the lack of warning they received and of aid efforts. The cause of the fires have not yet been determined, but some residents have filed lawsuits against Hawaiian Electric, the state’s largest utility.

Malia Chow is the founder of the non-profit Na Hale Cultural Arts Center in the village of Butler in Waukesha County. She teaches hula, Hawaiian culture, music and language. Chow was born in Hawaii and learned hula at 4 years old. She has danced professionally for 27 years. When she heard about the wildfire in Lāhainā, she sprung into action the best way she knows how – through hula.

She performed three hulas in honor of Maui over Facebook Live. In 12 hours she raised $1,400 and sent it to the Maui Food Bank.

“When we dance hula it’s like we’re using our bodies in a good way to express that energy and send it out,” Chow said.

Chow said donating money is not the only way to help. She keeps coming back to kuleana, or responsibility.

“We have our place and our responsibilities in order to move our ohana, our families forward, society forward in a good way so that we’re taking care of the things that we need to take care of,” Chow said.

The American Red Cross in Wisconsin sent seven volunteers to relief shelters in Lāhainā to hand out food and water to the survivors. Jennifer Warren is a spokesperson for the Red Cross.

“To be a humanitarian and to provide them comfort and care during what are the worst days of their lives I think is part of the Red Cross mission,” Warren said.

She said the volunteers will be there for three weeks. Once they come home, the Red Cross will consider sending more.

Chow is worried that relief efforts will peter out, and tourism and development will displace people who have lived there for generations.

“Where do the native Hawaiians go?” Chow asked.

In the meantime, she will continue to dance hula.

“Hula to me was always spiritual, and it was always a way that I connected to my ancestors,” Chow said.

Related Stories