From Kauai, with aloha

  • Photo courtesy of Gerald Roach
  • Photo courtesy of Gerald Roach
  • Photo by Tora Smart

HANALEI — North Shore music store, Hanalei Strings, donated a new ukulele to a victim of the California fires.

“Our community understands loss, as the hurricanes have hit us very hard in the past, and many of us lost everything,” said Tora Smart, co-owner of Hanalei Strings.

One customer in the store, Kathleen Brown, was vacationing in Kauai and waiting for updates of wildfires burning across her hometown in Santa Rosa. While visiting, she rented a ukulele from Hanalei Strings and made a connection with Smart.

“One of my coworkers, Bobbi Donovan, who lost her home to the fires, was only able to take a framed photo of her wedding and the clothes on her back,” Brown said. “She happened to mention she was unable to rescue her ukuleles.”

Donovan, whose home burned down on Oct. 10, is a phlebotomist at Sutter Santa Rosa Regional Hospital, married with three daughters and studying to become a nurse. She would often play ukulele on her lunch break in the ambulance bay.

“When we landed in Kauai on the 9th of October, I burst into tears as I opened my phone and read about the devastation in Sonoma County and surrounding area,” Brown said. “My sisters cheered my up by purchasing ukuleles and showing much enthusiasm about learning. As they played, I longed to play too. So we decided I should rent one while I was there.”

Brown went into Hanalei Strings that evening and met Smart, who pulled out a new Makala ukulele to rent. When she looked at Brown’s license, her heart sank.

“There has been an outpouring of help from various businesses in the community, and the recognition on social media is huge,” Brown said. “It would be so cool to have that outreach come as far as Hawaii.”

Smart acknowledged Brown’s heart-felt request and told her to keep the rented ukulele to personally deliver it to her friend directly impacted by the fires.

“Gifting an ukulele to someone who has lost all material possessions, including her beloved ukuleles, due to the California wildfires, is our honor,” Smart said. “Mahalo Kathleen for making the connection and giving us this opportunity.”

Rated as one of California’s most destructive wildfires in history, the natural disaster has affected communities throughout the entire state.

“As a community that has experienced the ravages of natural disasters, we send our love and aloha to your ohana there,” Smart said.

Hanalei Strings provides community lessons and hosts performances by local musicians and international guests. The store offers ukuleles, handmade instruments, vintage steel guitars and musical accessories.

“I’m grateful for the generosity of Hanalei Strings,” Donovan said. “I’m grateful that we have family, friends and complete strangers near and far who are surrounding our family and reminding us that we are not alone in this.”

“I’m going to keep strumming, find my stride and enjoy the adventure,” she added.


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