Restaurant workers who lost homes in Maui fire strike a chord with those looking to help

Eileen Domingo, 36, carries aid packages from the mainland U.S. at Kahului Airport. The packages include items such as toiletries and clothing for victims of the devastating Maui wildfires. Domingo, who is from the Lahaina area, says, “I can count the number of homes left standing.”

the more devastating it was just everything leveled.

Maui resident describes walk-in destroyed LahainaUnmute

ICICI Pru Life Insurance PlanThe Aug. 8 Maui disaster killed at least 114 people and destroyed more than 1,800 buildings. Many survivors have pleaded for help after the loss of their homes and most of Lahaina, a historic coastal town that had made its mark on the cultural fabric of the community.

The impact on well-respected restaurants offers a glimpse into the economic impact that the restaurants and their employees could face in the long term.

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“Of our 298 employees, 131 of them have lost their homes,” reads a GoFundMe page signed by the employees of the restaurants and created by Nicole Boskoff, who is with the company that owns the three businesses, Na Hoaloha ‘Ekolu.

“While we are fortunate to report that most of our structures still stand, our employees have experienced life-changing losses,” the page reads.

Officials release names of people killed FEMA lends a hand, but Maui fire losses estimated in the billions

The donation fund on the crowdsourced online fundraising platform GoFundMe garnered more than $396,000 by Friday afternoon. The money raised “will be distributed to employees based on their needs, to help them with necessities in the interim as they rebuild their homes and their lives, which could take years,” the page reads. The employee relief fundraiser is expected to end on Aug. 21.

“We have been so blessed to share the aloha at our luau to almost four million guests since 1986,” the post goes on to say, adding: “We are currently taking the time to talk to each person in our work ‘ohana to assess the extent of their losses and how we can best help with their specific needs.”

What makes the restaurants notable?

The company’s restaurants have received accolades over the years with SFGate dubbing Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop “the perfect Maui road trip stop” and Hawaii Magazine calling it “a must-stop comfort food destination.”

The gratitude for the staff, food, and hospitality at the restaurants, and fond memories of locals’ and visitors’ experiences are repeated multiple times in the comments.

“Our family has so many fond memories of visiting each of these amazing establishments over the years. We are devastated for your wonderful employees,” reads one from Josiah Filler, for example.

“Lahaina has been my happy place for over 30 years. My heart goes out to everyone who has been impacted by this tragedy. We were recently at Star noodle (and Leonidas) and every single person there always treats their customers like family. We will continue to do all we can to send our love and support to the island we love so much,” reads another from Callie Hynek.

Eileen Domingo, 36, carries aid packages from the mainland U.S. at Kahului Airport. The packages include items such as toiletries and clothing for victims of the devastating Maui wildfires. Domingo, who is from the Lahaina area, says, “I can count the number of homes left standing.”© Sandy Hooper, Sandy Hooper-USA TODAY

What’s next for the businesses?

“As a company, we will rebuild, however, we honestly have no idea when tourism and our businesses will reopen in West Maui,” the donation page for the Na Hoaloha ‘Ekolu restaurants reads. “Our employees are our priority, and we continue to support them in all ways.”

Old Lahaina Luau’s website says the businesses “all remain closed for the foreseeable future.”

“Though we do not have access to determine actual damage, it appears at this time that the Old Lahaina Luau is still standing and has minor damage,” the website reads. “We lost other parts of our businesses but we are hoping that what was spared will allow us to have a significant role in the recovery and restoration of the community we have been a part of for nearly four decades.”

There is hope that the employees’ homes will be resurrected with time.

“For generations, Lahaina has been a town known for its pride and resilience,” the post reads.

What other fundraisers are there to help those affected by the Maui wildfires?

Several other existing donation pages are seeking funds from people to help those who in the last week lost their homes, pets, and belongings. GoFundMe also has an overarching landing page of links to verified fundraisers with ways people can donate to Maui relief funds.

Other fundraisers range from the Kokua Restaurant & Hospitality Fund for Maui, which says it will “provide immediate assistance to the hardworking restaurant, bar and hospitality workers displaced by the devastating wildfires” to efforts to support other individuals and family members displaced by the wildfires.

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