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Volunteers rush to help as tragedies unfold


    Sergio “Monster Wagon” Mamoney stood outside the American Red Cross evacuation shelter where he and his family cook breakfast for evacuees on Friday in Pahoa.


    American Red Cross evacuation shelter personnel tended to two dogs that died while inside a car Friday at the Pahoa Community Center in Pahoa. At top, Leilani Estates evacuee Ron McLain sat Friday outside the American Red Cross evacuation center in Pahoa. “It’s nice to know that other people care,” McLain said of the volunteers.


    Leilani Estates evacuee Ron McLain sat Friday outside the American Red Cross evacuation center in Pahoa. “It’s nice to know that other people care,” McLain said of the volunteers.

PAHOA, Hawaii >> Volunteers from the Hawaii Island Humane Society dropped off dozens of dog and cat carriers to the Pahoa Community Center emergency evacuation center Friday, hopeful that those who fled with animals could use them to securely take pets inside and not leave them in hot vehicles.

Just 30 minutes later a man suddenly wailed in the parking lot.

Slowly, he removed two dead dogs from his compact car after it had been parked with the animals in the heat all morning. The man walked silently around the grounds of the evacuation center, where dozens of dogs were quickly offered water.

The incident underscores both the trauma that evacuees in South Puna are experiencing, and efforts of untold numbers of volunteers to do something — anything — to help.

The Pahoa Community Center and Keaau Senior Center are pet-friendly shelters. The Hawaii Island Humane Society issued the following guidelines for pets during the evacuation:

>> Do not leave animals behind.
>> Develop a plan for their ongoing care, including transportation requirements.
>> Reach out to family and friends to discuss arrangements.
>> Get in touch with a boarding facility for advance arrangements.
>> Larger animals, including horses and livestock, might need to be moved well in advance.
>> Gather items for your pet’s emergency kit (crate, leash, food, water, bowls, towel, identification, medication).

Inside the community center’s gym, Debbie Weeks, the American Red Cross’ director of disaster serv­ices, was trying to manage all of the incoming people who initially refused the call to evacuate the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.

“People saying, ‘I’m not going to go’ is not helping,” Weeks said. “They need to get out. They’re wasting the resources of police and firefighters trying to get them out, and they’ll certainly waste those resources if they have to be rescued. Then they show up here unprepared, with no food or water or clothing. They put the whole community at risk, then they show up with nothing.”

The shelters cannot accept home-cooked food that is not prepared in licensed commercial kitchens. And people who want to donate used items, such as clothing, would be better off donating them to the Salvation Army, which can ensure that they are properly cleaned, Weeks said.

Otherwise, nonperishable food, food prepared in licensed commercial kitchens and new items “are actually a great help,” Weeks said. “It’s awesome. We really feel a whole lot of support.”

Former mixed martial arts fighter and youth football and boxing coach Sergio “Monstah Wagon” Mamoney and 15 of his family members showed up at the Pahoa evacuation center parking lot Friday with his “Monstah Wagon” lunch truck outfitted with enough scrambled eggs, rice, ham and ground-pork gravy to feed 250 evacuees and volunteers.

When pressed, Mamoney acknowledged that the value of his donated food was probably $500. But the value of the donated food was not the point. “We still believe in the whole aloha spirit, giving back,” Mamoney said. “This is our community.”

Leilani Estates evacuees Ron McLain, 58, and his husband, Michael Berry, 68, appreciated the gesture as they polished off their breakfast on a picnic table.

“You see this kind of thing on television all the time, and you think it would never happen to you,” Berry said.

McLain then added, “So it’s nice to know that other people care.”

Like so many others who continued to filter in to the evacuation centers, McLain and Berry have no idea what’s happened to their 2,300-square-foot, three-bedroom, four-bath home behind the Hawaii National Guard and Kauai police barricades blocking the series of lava breakouts.

The couple spent Thursday night in the Hilo home of friends who have five children, all of them under age 7.

“We got big lessons in Tinker Bell this morning,” McLain said.

They planned to have a long discussion with their Hilo hosts about whether they should move into the evacuation center or find other accommodations.

Just before it was discovered that the two dogs had perished, Adam Pereira, the Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Keaau shelter manager, had told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “We don’t want animals in their owners’ cars in the hot sun.”

Not all of the gestures of help were as obvious as a hot breakfast or a secure pet carrier.

Twenty recovering drug addicts from the Access Capabilities Treatment Program in Pahoa showed up at the Pahoa Community Regional Center evacuation center Friday willing to do anything.

So Glenn Kokubun, Hawaii County’s regional parks supervisor for Puna and Keaau, pointed them to garbage bags and told them to pick up any trash they could find.

As he picked up pieces of discarded rubbish and cigarette butts, Access Capabilities Treatment Program client Kaeo Ornellas said he was glad to be of service.

“It feels good to give back to the community,” Ornellas said. “We all ohana.”

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