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Mauians are stepping up to help their neighbors in need

Gift cards, orchids, cash donations are all being made

Darrell and Jackie Tanaka of Sunshine Orchids of Maui donated 936 orchids to Hale Makua residents and staff. The orchids brightened the days of residents at Hale Makua’s Kahului, Wailuku and Home Health facilities.

Amid the dark cloud of the coronavirus on health and the economy, Maui residents are offering positive rays of help and goodwill.

The good comes in the form of large donations of food, cash and gift certificates and flowers to the elderly. The Maui News has been receiving reports of these altruistic people and groups.

The three West Maui Rotary clubs are providing food and support to families and local businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Boards of directors of the three clubs — Rotary Club of Lahaina, Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise and Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset — met virtually to hammer out programs to help local community members and their families, said Joanne Laird, secretary/club service chair of the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset.

The Rotary Club of Lahaina, partnering with Sysco Hawaii, is donating $4,000 in wholesale fresh produce (4,400 pounds), as well as refrigerated and frozen items for needy families through the Maui Food Bank. Because the Food Bank does not have storage for perishable items, Sysco is working with the club to keep items in storage in their facilities until time of distribution, Laird said in a news release earlier this week.

The Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunrise is making a $1,000 donation to the Food Bank and is purchasing 80 $25 gift cards from locally-owned Island Grocery Depot to be distributed to West Maui residents who have lost work due to the coronavirus crisis. Several members have personally contributed extra cards. These will be mailed to recipients over the next four weeks, and if the situation remains difficult beyond that time, the club will continue the program, Laird said.

The Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset is working with Rebecca Winkie, principal at Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, to help students and families in need who attend her school, Laird said. The club has purchased 40 $25 gift certificates at two locally-owned food establishments that still are open for takeout orders. Moku Roots in the Lahaina Gateway Center and CJ’s Deli in the Fairway Shops each received $1,000 to provide the gift certificates.

The club also purchased $1,000 worth of $25 gift cards at Foodland.

The 120 gift cards and certificates were presented to Winkie on March 26 for distribution.

In addition, Marilyn Jorgensen, co-owner of CJs Deli, collaborated with Winkie to invite families to her restaurant to pick up surplus milk, eggs and other produce that was donated by Sysco.

“To witness the Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset’s compassionate support for our community is both humbling and heartwarming,” said Winkie. “Their beyond-generous donation of meals by way of gift cards is truly a blessing during these trying economic times, and I applaud their efforts to assist the students, families and local businesses of Lahaina.”

This club also made financial contributions to Salvation Army, $500; and Maui Rescue Mission, $200, Laird said.

The West Maui Rotary Clubs will continue efforts to raise funds to support future projects to assist families in need due to the COVID-19 crisis, Laird said. Two of the clubs hold 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and all contributions for future support programs are tax deductible. To make a donation to a local Rotary Foundation, contact the following leaders via email: Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset Foundation, Mariko Higashi, marikoinmaui@gmail.com; and Rotary Club of Lahaina Foundation, Rick Nava; rick@msimaui.com.

In another act of kindness, Sunshine Orchids of Maui LLC donated 936 orchids valued at around $11,232 to Hale Makua residents and staff. Owners Darrell and Jackie Tanaka made four trips dropping off van loads of potted orchids to the Kahului, Wailuku and Home Health facilities. 

“Hale Makua has a special place in my heart,” said Jackie Tanaka, a former Hale Makua employee.

When orders started getting canceled due to the recent COVID-19 crises, Hale Makua was the first place they thought of to donate their excess supply of orchids. Having cared for Jackie Tanaka’s mother until her recent passing, the Tanakas felt a true appreciation for the work that the employees do caring for the residents, a Hale Makua news release said.

Due to the current situation, they knew residents have been unable to have visitors and thought their orchids could brighten their days, the news release said.

“The beautiful flowers brought a smile to everyone’s face and added a warm touch to the rooms of our residents,” Hale Makua said. “During these uncertain times, it is nice to see the people in our community rising up to lift the spirits of our residents and staff.”

Darrell Tanaka noted orchid farmers are unable to sell their flowers now, and there are several thousand more plants blooming or about to bloom.

The Food Bank received a big boost when Wailea part-time residents Gary and Janice Valenzuela donated $100,000 last week.

“We are hoping this large gift will encourage more people to help the growing need in our community,” Gary Valenzuela said.

The gift came from their charitable entity, The Valenzuela Family Foundation, which is managed by Janice Valenzuela.

Rich Yust, executive director of the Maui Food Bank, said Friday that the Valenzuela’s gift is a “very, very generous donation (and) . . . is one of the more sizable donations that we have received.”

The money “certainly helped us keep up with demand,” Yust said.

Normally, the food bank distributes 12,000 pounds of food a day; currently, the distribution rate is 20,000 pounds a day. The food bank inventory, which normally turns over every three weeks, is turning over in 1 1/2 weeks, he said.

Yust, who will be at the Food Bank 15 years today, said, “I’ve certainly never seen anything like this.”

To make a donation to the Food Bank, go to mauifoodbank.org.

The Grand Wailea and The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, also made donations to the Food Bank. The Grand Wailea donated more than 600 pounds of produce and provisions to Feed My Sheep and the Food Bank, said a news release from the resorts last week. The Ritz donated 450 pounds to the Food Bank.

The Ritz also gave toilet paper, sundries and clothes to the nonprofit Women Helping Women.

Both resorts currently are shut down.

* Lee Imada can be reached at leeimada@mauinews.com.

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