Though it’s more than 4,000 miles away, the Maui Wildfires have touched the hearts of hundreds of Wisconsinites.
According to GoFundMe, over $171,000 in donations for Maui Wildfire causes have come from Wisconsin.
“It’s actually made all the difference in the world,” Jeannette Lucero said. “It’s meant everything in the world to us.”
Lucero lived in Wisconsin for 20 years before moving back to her home in Hawaii. She and her boyfriend, a man who goes by the name Maui Mike, opened up a surf shop. Once a dream spot, is now a nightmare; Lahaina.
“The surf shop is on the west side of the island,” Lucero said. “Ground zero, if you will.”
Lucero is yet to see the devastation in person. She spent the last week in Milwaukee for a wedding. She should have arrived home Tuesday, but she’s had flight delays.
Normally, it would be a headache, but she sees the delays as a welcoming setback from the inevitable.
“All of my friends here in Wisconsin have been warning me to prepare myself for the actual reality of when I get home,” Lucero said. “I am actually a little relieved that I have a few more days to compose myself.”
The pictures and videos she’s seen hardly seem real. The once welcoming surf shop full of shaved ice has been reduced to charred gray rubble. The shop’s signature colorful Volkswagen Bug is hardly recognizable.
A lifetime dream, destroyed. But still, Jeannette and her boyfriend are keeping others first.
“Ours is a small surf shop,” Lucero said. “But we realize that a lot more people have lost so much more.”
At least 101 have died and more than 1,000 people remain unaccounted for according to local reports. It’s a reality that’s unbelievable to Jeannette. While she tries to comprehend the incredible loss, the generosity of strangers is keeping her faith.
A friend started a GoFundMe for Jeannette and as of Tuesday night, it was near $6,000.
“It’s actually been overwhelming,” Lucero said. “Almost as overwhelming as this devastating incident. Just the enormous response from everyone, far and near, from strangers. A lot of the responses have been from guests that haven’t been to the surf shop in over eleven years.”
Jeannette says she was contacted Tuesday by a couple they met in Las Vegas. She gave the couple her card with hopes they’d visit the surf shop someday.
Some day may never come. But a physical visit to the surf shop isn’t needed to give a hearty mahalo.
“They were calling to see if we were doing well and we had to share news that we lost our surf shop,” Lucero said. “They were devastated to hear how it all went down. It was really sad to share the news that the surfshop is gone but they were all very excited to hear that we have every intention of rebuilding and reopening and hopefully maintaining the same vibe that we were able to provide for everyone who came to visit the surfshop.”
Once they’re back on their feet, Jeannette says she’d like to buy a couple of surfboards to hang up in the shop. But they won’t be any regular surfboards. When all is said and done, when you look real close, they’ll have names etched into it.
Names of every single person who opened their hearts and generously gave money to them. A reminder of the kindness in a paradise lost.
“That’s a great idea,” Lucero said. “I think we’ll do that. Prop up a couple surfboards and everybody who contributed, we’ll engrave everyone’s names on it. I got to remember that.”
The love she’s felt from strangers will be hard to forget.
The following fundraisers were created by Wisconsin residents to help their loved ones in Hawaii and can be found on the hub: gofundme.com/c/act/wildfire-relief/maui
Maui’s Beach House Post Fire Fund
“Jeannette will do anything for anyone and if you’ve been out to visit her in Hawaii you know this. Let’s all get together and show her our love by supporting her and her employees in this time of need!”
“His house and all his family and his own belongings were affected by the fires. He had to evacuate his area and now doesn't have anything.”
Help Kevin & Sheryl Federico
· “ I have worked with, and been friends with, Kevin for over 20 years on LMP. Kevin and Sheryl lost everything in the Maui wildfires.”
Financial Help needed due to Lahaina Tragedy
“She spent all her savings trying to settle in and things were going great for her until Hurricane Dora burned down all her belongings but more important burned down her two work places and place to live”
“We have many close friends ("family by choice"), who have already lost homes & businesses in Lahaina & Kaanapali...much more than we--or they--could even possibly know yet.”
Help Austin and Bryan
Austin Lipinski and Bryan Libby lost their home and everything they own due to the fires in Hawaii. I remember being a punk kid coming up into Freedom and probably annoying the shit out of Austin but he always made me feel welcome. I met bryan through skating at the Dustbowl and he has always been one of the nicest dudes and rippers.”
Help John Kalish recover in Lahaina, Maui
"My brother, John Kalish, has lived the last 15 years in Lahaina and has lost everything in the fire. His belongings, apartment, workplace and community are all gone.”