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Donation drive to aid Tonga set for Saturday

Grassroots group Tonga Relief Efforts is holding a donations drive Saturday to provide assistance in the aftermath of the mid-January volcanic eruption that covered the Tongan islands in ash and triggered an earthquake and tsunami.

Donations will be accepted from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Dillingham Plaza’s mauka parking lot at 1415 Dillingham Blvd., where the group is filling a Matson shipping container.

Organizer Milikaleakona Tonga Hopoi said requested items include: wheelbarrows, machetes, Brita water pitchers and filters, powder laundry detergent, non-perishable food, dish soap, bug repellent and anti-itch cream to relieve the itching from the still-present ash.

Previously, the group held a donation drive on Feb. 21 at Blaisdell Center. Hopoi said after sorting and boxing donated clothing, shovels, rakes, garden tools, personal protective equipment, disinfectant items, linens and bedding, the group found it had filled slightly more than half of a 40-foot shipping container.

The group has received an award letter through Aloha United Way to have Matson cover the shipping costs of the relief items, and plans are in the works to ship the container to Tonga by April 17.

Also among business donations, City Mill is contributing 175 landscaping power tools, including chainsaws, trimmers, pole saws and blowers. “This donation is … a very kind and warm gesture of aloha by City Mill,” Hopoi said. “I have shared the news with my family in Tonga and the Tongan community on Oahu. Everyone is beyond overjoyed.”

The Tongan community has been overwhelmed by the generosity of friends. Lois “Tongan” Tiedermann, a soccer player with the Women Island Soccer Association, noted that association members have donated six truckloads of items.

Additionally, the following organizations and businesses have made contributions: Neal S. Blaisdell Center, Kamehameha Schools, Center of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Advancement, Toli’s Coffee & Grinds, Ewa Beach Lions Club Foundation, Hawaii Civic Club of Honolulu,, Moka Movers and U-Haul Kakaako. Various members of the Legislature and county councils have pitched in with monetary or material contributions.

Monetary donations are also being accepted through the “Help Tonga Recovery Fund” GoFundMe account.

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