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Surprising number of volunteers in Lahaina are visitors

<i></i><br/>The Sheets family traveled to West Maui from Lanai'i for fall break

The Sheets family traveled to West Maui from Lanai'i for fall break

By Jeremy Lee

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    LAHAINA, Hawaii (KITV) — As many in West Maui face uncertainty, communities continue to rally in support, with volunteers answering the call to assist with the recovery.

“I have to say, a majority of the volunteers are our visitors, believe it or not,” Hawaii State Rep. Elle Cochran told Island News. “And it has been incredible and surprising, where people are willing to come here from all over the world to spend five days or so to just come to Lahaina.”

Island News first visited Cochran’s Kelawea Mauka distribution hub in early September.

“My dream is tents lined up,” she told us.

Cochran built it, and in the last month people have come from far and wide to lend a hand. Tents now line the perimeter, just as Cochran envisioned.

“From New York, we had people from France come in, many of the tourists who are coming in and staying at these hotels,” Kylie Adolpho said.

Adolpho welcomes the support but is concerned local evacuees in hotels could be replaced by tourists.

Maui County has advocated for a phased approach for tourists to return.

The Sheets family, visiting from Lanai across the water, is putting in a Monday through Friday volunteer work week.

“It was just heart-wrenching to be so close to Maui, but I feel like we couldn’t, there was not much we could do to help in those days and weeks after,” Rachel Sheets said. “And so we kind of tentatively planned and hoped that we could come over during this week and just volunteer in different capacities.”

Bill Yee from Northern California says he and his wife arrived to help without even knowing where they would be putting in the hours.

“Didn’t have any bites, meaning that some of the places just have more volunteers than needed. So we were getting a little bit discouraged,” Yee said. “We went to a bank, we meet this teller, and she said you’ve got to come over here. I know these people, they will need your help. And so we landed over here. Total serendipity.”

Cochran says all those hours stocking and maintaining the Kelawea-Mauka-Makai park site supports the community. She added this of a church group arriving from Kentucky.

“In the hot sun and the dust,” Cochran told Island News. “They’re leaving, they’re like, ‘OK, well, it’s been great. Thanks for having us.’ I’m like, ‘No, thank you.’ And they came back later that evening and they’re like, ‘Well, we decided we have money left on our vacation, we want to spend it on the Hub.’ So these are the kind of things that people have been doing just out of the sheer kindness of their heart. And it’s been really incredible.”

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