We have seen local nonprofit organizations help find temporary housing for as many people as possible after the closure of some shelters. Commodity donations that had been sent to those closed shelters were subsequently left behind. Volunteers, however, gathered the abandoned supplies and stored them in their homes before driving them around the community to places where they were most needed. The volunteers then found a vacant store, where the remaining supplies were relocated and distributed to those in need, no questions asked.
Word has spread, and attendance at the Donation Hub seems to double daily. Like the ocean breaking on the burned shores around us, the needs come in waves. Those affected literally have nothing. Daily necessities of food and water are distributed there, with residents taking only what they need for that day as they don’t have the means to store anything.
At first, the need for toothbrushes, items of personal hygiene, and underwear were primary necessities. Then came diapers, baby clothes, and formula. Pet food was also a big need. Then, school supplies.
Each day, we make a list of requested items that we do not have in the Donation Hub. Money donations immediately turn into trips to the store to try and buy those items. One recent list included peanut butter, mac and cheese, tweezers, men’s work gloves, men’s long pants, women’s makeup, automatic pencils for school children, and pet food.
One donor sent 200 backpacks stuffed with school supplies, granola bars, T-shirts, and hats. They were gone in three days. Now, food, water, cooking utensils, crockpots, frying pans, air mattresses, tents, blankets, and pillows are all flying off the shelves. There is no immediate end in sight to what residents will need.
Even those lucky enough to have not lost property or their lives to fire have been indirectly affected. Many are dealing with contaminated water and a loss of power. Many have lost their jobs because so many facets of normal life on the island are tourism-based and funded.
Neighboring islands are sending supplies to replenish the stores, yet bare shelves remain. Some of the sights we’ve seen can never be unseen. Rebuilding will be a process that lasts years.