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#PunaStrong puts on its own show amid lava disaster

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A benefit concert was held Friday night at the Maku‘u Farmers Market in Lower Puna, with the proceeds going to Pu‘uhonua o Puna. Tiffani Hahn, her husband Zach and their daughter Sydney, 10, showed off T-shirts from their company TZ Hawaii that were sold during the event.

AINALOA >> There’s been overwhelming despair, fear, sadness and sympathy in Lower Puna since erupting lava began driving hundreds of people out of their homes a month ago. But Friday night for a change, a lot of good feelings were flowing.

With a red glow for a backdrop, courtesy of Madame Pele’s fountaining lava 5 miles away in Pahoa, about 1,500 people packed the grounds of what normally serves as a Sunday farmers market for a concert that raised money for disaster victim supplies.

The grass-roots production involved a small army of residents who volunteered their time, goods and services to put on the event that benefited Pu‘uhonua o Puna, which is itself a volunteer hui that has been collecting and providing everything from food and water to camping gear and personal hygiene supplies to those suffering from the Kilauea eruption that began May 3.

Mele Kekahuna, whose family operates the Maku‘u Farmers Market, said she had anticipated the event, which charged a $10 entry fee, might raise $3,000 to $5,000.

But about 1,500 people attended, generating $15,000 in admission. On top of that, vendors sold food that included smoked meat, adobo, beer, wine and apparel with custom designs signifying community strength in Puna — all of which raised even more money for the Pu‘uhonua supply hub in Pahoa.

“It was way more than what we expected,” Kekahuna said. “Words cannot explain how blessed we are to have so many people that also donated to Pu‘uhonua o Puna. We are very happy everyone came out and enjoyed themselves.”

The event dubbed “Love the Place You Live” was scheduled to run from 5 to 10 p.m., but the last band didn’t finish until 1 a.m.

“A lot of people need, and a lot of people want to give,” said Jose Miranda-Kepa, a concert promoter who arranged the entertainment after Shane Vincent of local band Sudden Rush suggested the concert idea.

“To me there’s nothing easier or more better than having fun and donating to an event like this,” Miranda-Kepa said. “You come, you enjoy yourself, listen to some really good local music, and you’re helping by doing that. We’re just trying to do what we can for the people who are really hurting right now.”

The musical lineup was Sudden Rush, Loeka Longakit, Boom Draw, Casey808 and Kyle Strings, Media and Kolea.

Volunteers took on the work of running the beer garden, cooking food, providing security and attending to parking.

Zach Hahn, owner of shirt design and production business TZ Hawaii in nearby Hawaiian Paradise Park, was selling shirts that included one featuring an image of a painting local artist Gary Palm made from a compilation of photos he took in Leilani Estates, where dozens of homes have been destroyed by lava.

More homes in the neighboring Lanipuna Gardens rural subdivision also have been lost. In all, 87 homes are gone, and more are isolated. Lava has also driven people from over 500 homes farther east, closer to the coast around Pohoiki and in Kapoho, Vacationland and Kapoho Beach Lots where lava was moving in Saturday.

Some 351 people have taken up shelter at the Pahoa Community Shelter and 53 at the Keaau Armory near Herbert Shipman Park, Hawaii County officials reported Saturday.

“It’s been tough,” Hahn said. “I’m glad that we’re able to come out here and bring a little joy, a little happiness, to raise this money.”

William Kiefer bought a shirt with Palm’s design that shows lava oozing down a road and setting trees aflame in Leilani Estates.

Kiefer’s house burned down there Thursday night.

“I lost my place last night,” he said, “but I came to terms with it with Aunty (Pele) weeks ago. I love these people. All the proceeds go to the hub, the wonderful people that are helping us. That’s why we’re all here. That’s why I bought one of these from these awesome people. It’s beautiful.”

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