Duo provides opportunities to assist lava victims

  • Kristin Witt donates a carload of items purchased at local retaiers for residents displaced by the volcano at Kona Dance and Performing Arts Tuesday in Kealakekua. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Joe Killino helps unload items donated at Kona Dance and Performing Arts in Kealakekua for residents displaced by the volcano. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Sharon Killino helps stack items at Kona Dance and Performing Arts in Kealakekua donated for Puna residents displaced by the volcano. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)
  • Kristin Witt donates a carload of items purchased at local retailers Tuesday at Kona Dance and Performing Arts in Kealakekua for residents displaced by the volcano at. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

KAILUA-KONA — Two women are creating opportunities for West Hawaii residents to help their neighbors in the Puna District who have been impacted by lava eruptions for almost a week.

Amanda Trusty, artistic director for Kona Dance and Performing Arts, teamed up with Brittany Horn, co-owner of Pacific Coffee Research, to raise funds and supplies for the victims of Leilani Estates.

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“I feel like everybody wants to do something, but don’t know what to do,” Trusty said.

Lava flows started last Thursday when a fissure erupted in Leilani Estates. Lava spewed from the earth, overtaking all that came in its path. Almost a week later, at least 14 fissures have erupted in the area, resulting in the evacuation of 1,800 residents.

As of Tuesday, the lava has destroyed 36 structures. The 13th and 14th fissures forced more evacuations as the two new vents were actively erupting near the intersection of Leilani Avenue and Kahukai Road and Kaupili Street.

“We don’t know how long this is going to last for. I didn’t want to raise this money and just hand it over to the Red Cross,” Horn said. “I want to make sure it’s helping the community directly.”

On Saturday, Horn created an online fundraiser to aid the victims in Puna through YouCaring.com.

“I don’t have money,” Horn said. “I do have two hands, two feet, time and energy. That’s the best I can do.”

As of Tuesday evening, $1,155 out of the $10,000 goal had been raised.

“I got a lot of friends over there so I felt a sense of responsibility to help out,” she said.

Kona Dance, located at 81-973 Halekii St. in Kealakekua, is the hub for donations for the next two weeks. Twelve other businesses in West Hawaii are also acting as collection centers.

Trusty said Kona Dance will do all the donation pickups and she and Horn plan to make a delivery to the shelters on Saturday.

Like Horn, Trusty felt the same sense of duty to help the Puna community, adding that side of the island completely changed her life. Originally from New York, Trusty moved to Pahoa with the intention of only staying three months.

Several years later, she’s now a South Kona resident and working for Kona Dance.

“All of those people in that amazing beautiful place — it’s really devastating,” Trusty said.

Trusty also hopes to find a way to teach dance to the keiki in the shelters.

“We don’t have to save the world. Everyone can do a little bit,” she said. “There’s been a lack of understanding of the direness of the situation. Show compassion, empathy. If you can help, please do.”

Trusty said she also saw a list of needs crop up on a grassroots volunteer Facebook page, Puuhonua o Puna.

However, the group posted Tuesday it was suspending donations until further notice.

“We have three Matson containers coming in from Oahu,” said volunteer Ashley Kierkiewicz. “We’re locating where these people are to get them this generous kokua from the Big Island, outer islands and nationwide.”

Kierkiewicz said Puuhonua o Puna wants to be transparent about the handling of the collection items they take in.

“We want to be able to get these donations out,” she said.

Puuhonua o Puna is also working with Bank of Hawaii to set up a relief fund for Leilani Estates residents.

First Hawaiian Bank and Foodland are also taking cash donations.

“It’s good to know where it’s not needed so we know where it needs to go,” Trusty said.

Horn added they welcome feedback on what the needs are and where.

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“We’re here to listen and act,” she said. “We want to know what’s going to help people in the most impactful way.”

Hawaii Island Humane Society posted on its Facebook page needs for evacuated pets. Items include: toys, beds, large crates, leashes, collars and bowls. Donations can be dropped off at any HIHS shelter.

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