How to help Hawaii: Northern Illinois Food Bank, United Airlines send thousands of pounds food, supplies after Maui fires

CHICAGO (WLS) — Relief shipments are pouring into Maui from around the country, including the Chicago area, and are expected to continue for weeks, if not months.

Among the most-needed items are baby formula and hygiene supplies like shampoo and toothpaste.

More than a week into the disaster and the scope of what’s been lost continues to astonish those who have gone to Maui to help.

“The certainty of life was ripped from them, you know, the sense of security in your home and in your job and in your community, and that’s just gone,” said Red Cross volunteer Mary McGavin.

A social worker from Aurora, McGavin is on Maui with the Red Cross to provide counseling services.

“Six months from now, the tears are still going to be falling, and the bad dreams are still going to be coming, and the memory of running from one’s home is still going to be there,” she said.

But relief is slowly arriving. Tens of thousands of pounds worth of food is now headed from the Northern Illinois Food Bank to those in need on Maui as the island recovers from those wildfires.

More than 25,000 pounds of food, which is equal to over 21,000 meals, were packed into Aldi Disaster Relief Boxes.

SEE ALSO | Video puts scrutiny on possible cause of Maui wildfire

Each box contains Aldi foods with a long shelf life, including peanut butter, granola, energy bars, instant oatmeal, tuna and much more.

Forty-one pallets of food were loaded up into a donated Amazon truck earlier Wednesday morning that will be sent to California, and then Hawaii.

The president of the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Julie Yurko, said they were ready to answer the call for help.

READ MORE | Death toll from devastating Maui fire reaches 106; Bidens to visit Monday

“For us to be able to help when you see a disaster strike just really fills our hearts and souls. We have these beautiful disaster boxes and for us to be able to get them out there in a small way, makes us feel like these families have what they need,” Yurko said.

Aldi has donated more than 22 million pounds of food to the Northern Illinois Food Bank to provide meals for families when a crisis strikes.

The Northern Illinois Food Bank is ready whenever a crisis unfolds.

“Every year we have a disaster packing event. We have almost 700 of their employees come out. They provide all of the food. We packed, this year, 6,000 boxes of food that we are able to store here and distribute when disaster comes,” Yurko said.

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The Northern Illinois Food Bank isn’t the only organization stepping up to help recovery efforts in Maui.

United Airlines also sent 24,000 pounds of emergency relief supplies from O’Hare to Maui free of cost.

It was a direct request from a local church working quickly on the ground to help Maui wildfire victims. Everything from baby formula, canned soup, pasta, hygiene products, soap and shampoos is on the way.

“Good leads the way, and part of that good leading the way is leading and taking that responsibility,” said United Hub in Chicago Vice President Omar Idris.

And, another plane will be a saving grace on the way back.

“It’s coming back from the Hawaiian islands full,” Idris said.

Just shy of 300 people, it’s a team effort between Convoy of Home, Seko Logistics and United’s nonprofit partner Airlink, which has gotten 12,000 people out of Maui.

“In the wake of a crisis, to ensure we’re practicing responsible donation, and that means ensuring that the most important items are going first, and we’re not overwhelming local resources,” said Airlink Humanitarian Manager Jenny Torner.

The wildfires burned through Maui for days last week, leaving at least 106 people dead and many others still missing as authorities work quickly to identify the victims.

“We have a deep connection to the island, so this tragedy affected a lot of us,” Idris said.

The United flight stops in Denver first before landing in Maui. United has done 66 departures to get people off the island.

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