When hurricane Iselle struck the east side of the island, The Big Island Giving Tree volunteers rallied together to begin delivering much needed ice, water, food, and basic needs at least three times a week and taken to Puna for distribution.
According to Rhonda Bell, Big Island Giving Tree coordinator, all of their donations are being gathered by community members on the west side of the island, being ordered at Costco for pick up, or dropped off at various locations.
“Our volunteers pick up the donations, separate and bag the items for families and load it onto a truck,” Bell said. “The truck is taken to an area that is in need most.”
The BIGT, along with Snow Factory and Solid Rock East, distributed over 8,000 pounds of ice, 20 cases of water, and lots of non-perishable foods, batteries, diapers, toiletries, dog food, and fresh avocados.
“It was a drive through pick up — residents stayed in their vehicles, they were asked what they needed assistance with and the items were given,” Bell said. “Many many residents were blessed. Some shared tears of relief and joy with volunteers.”
The Big Island Giving Tree is now in partnership with the well-established, locally based nonprofit “RLI” (Redeeming Light International). Donations to the Big Island Giving Tree can be made at any FHB branch, orders may be placed and paid for with Costco for the BIGT, or checks may be made payable to The Big Island Giving Tree and mailed to BIGT P.O. Box 2786 Kamuela, HI, 96743.
During the hurricane, about 55 people met at the Honokaa School cafeteria, opened by the Red Cross by Balbi Brooks and at the Waimea Community Center through the Waimea Community Emergency Response Training, manned by Donni Sheather. A family brought a homemade pot of stew to the shelter and many residents stopped by to see how they could assist, Sheather said.
“It was a great experience,” said Sheather. “ … It brought out the best in a lot of people.”