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Bethel sends funds and fish for Maui fire victims

LaTesia "Tish" presents Bethel's donations to the Maui VFW Auxiliary.
Courtesy of Tish Guinn
LaTesia "Tish" Guinn presents Bethel's donations to the Maui VFW Auxiliary.

When LaTesia "Tish" Guinn heard about the fires on Maui, she wanted to do something.

“Alaska has always been very, very passionate towards Hawaii,” said Guinn. “Like, they're our sister state, you know, and, and we just did have a lot of communication back and forth and whatever. Like we’re related in some way.”

There are frequent flights from Anchorage to the islands, and residents feel connected. The pair of noncontiguous states share high prices, a history of recent colonization, and taste in food.

“We all love fish,” said Guinn. “They come to Alaska to fish like crazy. We come down here to hang out on their beaches and fish down here.” 

So Guinn and her family decided to get together fish and funds before their annual fall trip to Maui.

Guinn is the past department president and current secretary/treasurer at Bethel’s Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) chapter. Guinn and her niece, Tess Guinn, the current president, wanted to help out the VFW chapter in Maui. They decided to host a bingo event and dedicate the funds to the fire victims. And they held it on a Saturday for the first time since the pandemic, allowing for a full day of fundraising.

“We called it Aloha Day. And we had raffles, we had chili by the bowl with cornbread for five bucks. We had all kinds of people coming by and bringing donations of all kinds of things, all kinds of crafts, produce boxes from Tim Meyers and, and then just lots of other donations that were brought. And then they raffle those off later that night, as well as do the bingo, and pull tabs, and everything that they did,” Guinn said.

In total, they raised $9,759 in one day for Lahaina.

“Which I think is pretty fantastic for Bethel and a small community of ours, only 6,000 people that can raise that kind of money was pretty exceptional,” Guinn said.

Before heading to Maui with the check, Guinn and her family knew what would be appreciated most.

“Me and Jimmy brought down some of our supply of our fish, our moose meat, and we brought that directly down to one of the restaurants down here, who brought it by that evening. They had already brought it over to the shelter. And there were already people cooking. So that fed a lot of people, a lot of people. And my son just came down yesterday, and he brought more salmon," said Guinn.

To get the fish and meat to Hawaii, they made sure everything was frozen solid. Then they put it in totes, kept them under 50 pounds, and brought them as baggage.

“You know, the more perishable items are a little harder to deal with as to non-perishable, but I know they really, really appreciate it because they love their fish just like we do,” Guinn said.

Guinn wasn’t sure how the shelter prepared the fish, but it would be different. They love salmon, but they mostly have tuna, mahi mahi, different kinds of whitefish, and many more.

“They have found they can make it in their traditional ways,” Guinn said. “Or in, you know, with their kind of spices and stuff that they use here. And fruits and stuff and just make it taste amazing.”

Maui’s VFW is one of the many organizations that jumped into action since the Maui wildfires. Guinn helps out with their chapter too.

“They've been kind of set back since COVID, had some problems too, and haven't really been able to have their luaus, their steak nights, and some of their events. But they're still meeting and they're still trying to do some projects, which is right now helping out their community with this fire,” Guinn said.

Guinn said that funding and other donations, like toiletries that Bethel is sending, really helped them out. Guinn reported that stores were pretty full and people are in temporary housing, but they anticipate that the next need will be for permanent housing and things homes need, like small appliances, linens, cooking gear, and other homeware. As it is, homes in Hawaii aren’t very big, and some are overcrowded right now. The Maui VFW chapter is also helping people with transportation needs.

“They've been doing a lot of transporting people to and from doctor appointments just because a lot of people lost their vehicles with the fire,” Guinn said. “And so they have no way of getting to, you know, to pick up their medication, or see their doctor, or you had those regular visits and stuff that they need.”

While at first many were told to stay away from Maui, Guinn said that the community is happy to have them.

“The weather has been fantastic. You know, it's just a stay-away zone is the Lahaina area. Everywhere else is wide open. Some of the bad publicity that went out to tell everybody to go away was kind of shocking because that really hurt all of the rest of Hawaii,” Guinn said.

Hawaii relies on tourism and the money it brings in. The state is worried about reviving the tourist industry, and about the multi-billion-dollar cost of rebuilding.

Guinn said that Lahaina, where the fires hit, is completely sealed off, but the rest of the island is open and welcoming visitors back. Luggage full of salmon would be an obvious plus.

Sunni is a reporter and radio lover. Her favorite part of the job is sitting down and having a good conversation.