I was not here for (Hurricane) ‘Iniki, but have heard many stories about the power of the storm and the fear it caused as its winds bore down on our shores. I also heard heart-opening stories of how the community came together in the aftermath to support each other.
Today we find ourselves in the middle of a proverbial storm the likes of which no one has seen in over 100 years. Thanks to early-intervention measures by Mayor Kawakami, the virus that is sweeping the globe has only lapped at our shores. This time we are the lucky ones here on Kaua‘i.
For many of our friends and neighbors, “lucky” is probably not the first word that comes to mind.
Totally unexpectedly and almost overnight, so many of our friends and neighbors saw their businesses and jobs disappear, people reluctantly had to lay off employees and shutter their storefronts. Like most Americans, many of our friends and neighbors live paycheck-to-paycheck.
The federal government stepped in and approved the largest disaster-relief package in history to help during this time of great need. For the past month, I have been spending most of my time helping individuals and businesses access these needed government funds. Unfortunately, in this time of crisis the wheels of government are moving painfully slow and the largest programs for small businesses are already depleted of funds. As the past month progressed, conversations have shifted from accessing grants or unemployment benefits to how do I feed my family tonight.
The time has come for us to take a play from Kaua‘i’s resilient past playbook. If you are truly one of the lucky ones who still has a job and a steady paycheck, consider what sacrifices you can make to help lift the burden for those who are not so fortunate.
Check in with your neighbors and ask if they need anything. Buy an extra bag or two of groceries and drop them off at one of our two foodbanks. Donate to an organization supporting children and families in crisis. Support efforts to make Kaua‘i more economically and food independent so we are more prepared for the next crisis.
A friend of mine once shared how her home’s roof blew off during ‘Iniki. In the middle of the storm her family had to run in hurricane winds to find shelter at the neighbor’s. We may not be able to see or feel this storm, but some of our neighbors are in just as much trouble. Please open your hearts and your pocketbooks if you can. Our community can see everyone through this crisis.
Mark Perriello is the president and CEO of the Kaua‘i Chamber of Commerce.