Mandira Tremblay has lived in Long Beach for over two decades, but Maui will always be her home.
It’s where she was born and raised. Her family and friends are still there, and the feeling of community with her fellow Hawaiians isn’t something that has just faded since she moved to Long Beach in 2001.
But when she went home last Monday, Aug. 7, with her two teenagers in tow to celebrate her best friend’s birthday the next day, she never could have anticipated they would experience the island’s devastating fires and be a part of the efforts to rebuild.
Tremblay was staying at her dad’s house in Olinda where she hosted the birthday party celebrations. Wind was howling and they knew a hurricane was coming, but the concern wasn’t fire—it was falling trees.
At around 4 a.m., after having a hard time sleeping with the loud winds, Tremblay saw texts from her cousin who lives about 15 to 20 minutes away asking if she and her family were OK.
“That’s when I knew something was going on,” Tremblay said. “When I got up and looked outside, I could see right across the street from my dad’s house, the tree lines, I could see there was fire burning. It started up above us and was spreading down.”
Tremblay and her family decided to remain at the house, located in a forest with lots of eucalyptus trees and a gulch behind the house. She secured the propane tank they had used hours earlier for the birthday barbecue and remained vigilant online, tracking the fires’ progress.
They were lucky.
At least 2,200 buildings have been destroyed, including the entire town of Lahaina, and over 90 people were killed, officials said. Many of the deceased have not been accounted for or recovered.
“There’s so many stories,” Tremblay said. “It’s like a war zone out there right now.”
When the danger had passed, she and her loved ones were left with the devastation of people they knew who had lost their homes, jobs and everything they had. It motivated her to start taking donations so she could buy supplies and distribute them.
“Some people don’t even know what they need yet,” Tremblay said. “They’re still in shock.”
She asked her manager at Reno Room, where she has worked over the past two decades as a bartender, if the bar would be willing to spread around her contact information for donations. The bar also took donations for diapers, baby food, toiletries, sleeping bags and more supplies that they shipped to Maui with the help of the Port of Long Beach.
In Lahaina, ice companies have been delivering ice to keep food cold and some residents have no gas or heat.
By Saturday, she had spent about $2,000 of donated money, which Tremblay said came mostly from the Long Beach community, on supplies like flip-flops, shoes and school backpacks for kids that she handed out at a community event.
“Kids are going back to school right now and some kids have to go to another school on the whole other side of the island because their side is not there,” Tremblay said.
People who came to the event shared stories, hugged, prayed together and gave what they could of their own stuff so it could be redistributed to those in need.
“There were so many people that were so humble, they weren’t loading up a bag (of stuff), they just want one toothbrush,” Tremblay said.
With a tragedy of this magnitude and with so many people in need, “there’s no wrong way to donate,” Tremblay said.
She plans to return to Long Beach on Aug. 17 and will continue using donations to support those in need directly.
“It’s been extremely heartwarming how Long Beach has helped,” Tremblay said. “I’m so, so grateful for our Long Beach community right now, it’s just amazing.”
For those interested in donating, here are some local businesses that are taking donations as well as organizations in Maui that are doing work on the ground:
- Mandira Tremblay can be reached on Instagram or on Venmo @mandiraasha.
- ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 are collecting donations. Donations can be dropped off at Memorial Hall until Aug. 17, a list of suggested items can be found here. Monetary donations can also be made through the ILWU credit union, even as a non-member, information can be found here.
- Jewish Long Beach is accepting monetary donations here.
- Kennedy’s Craft Kitchen & Cocktails will have a fundraiser for the Maui Strong Fund organized by the Hawaii Community Foundation. The event is 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15 at 5506 E. Britton Drive. All proceeds will go towards the fund. Tiki drinks will be on special for $8 all day.
- The Office of Mayor Rex Richardson also referred the community to send donations to the Maui Strong Fund.
- The Maui Food Bank is taking donations here.
- The Maui Humane Society is also taking donations.
- Maui United Way is taking donations here.
- The Red Cross outlines their efforts and ways to donate here.
- Samaritan’s Purse also responded to the crisis and donations can be given here.