PUNA, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -
Puna was thrust into the spotlight this past week when the area unexpectedly became the star of Hawai'i's U.S. Senate showdown --but now that the special election is over, residents who've been devastated by Iselle are concerned they'll be forgotten.
"It isn't going to be hard for the state to forget us. We've already been forgotten," said Francis Kim, a Hawaiian Paradise Park Resident.
Out of sight out of mind has become one of a growing list of worries.
"Now it's time for everybody's eyes to open -- wake up yeah -- to open their eyes and see what's going on with us people we've been suffering a lot," Kim said, his voice shaking.
Many are convinced the attention their plight has gotten in recent days will all but disappear now that candidates are gone.
"They're not coming back. We're not stupid, but we still need the help for sure," said Michelle Lee. "Just have compassion and still be aware of the fact that Iselle happened. It hit and there's people here that need the help."
An estimated 3,800 customers are still without electricity and hundreds have no running water. HELCO has made huge strides restoring power, but generators are still the areas greatest need. Folks have been forced to throw away fridges full of food and many can't afford to eat out every night, volunteers who've been cooking and serving meals have been a godsend.
"It's the little things that you don't realize how important they are, like ice. Just even a hot meal when you've been eating cold spam for five days. It's really a wonderful thing. Really thank you to everybody who has helped us out. If you do want to help us out even more, come register with us, call, talk to us and we will get you hooked up with people that need your help," said Suzi Bond, the Vice Chair of East Hawai'i VOAD -- Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters, a non-profit that matches peoples' needs with available resources.
Residents are encouraged to hear FEMA is on the ground to determine federal assistance eligibility. A Disaster Assistance Recovery Center is open Saturday and Sunday, August 17 at Mountain View Gym so folks can file their storm damage reports and help the state determine whether the district will qualify for federal aid.
Red Cross Emergency Shelters like the one still open at the Pahoa Community Center have helped more than 2,300 people statewide since Iselle's landfall.
According to officials, Red Cross shelters and distribution centers, has served 3,439 meals and snacks and distributed 11,832 relief items-- including tarps, batteries, flashlights, water, ice, comfort kits, clean up kits, bleach, work gloves and trash bags to those in need thanks to corporate and community partners like Foodland, Walmart, Safeway, P&G/Duracell, Home Depot, Target, CVS Caremark/Longs Drugs and Chevron.
Officials say Red Cross volunteers will continue to distribute meals and snacks on Sunday, August 17 to those in need at the following locations and times (as supplies last): Pahoa Community Center parking lot and Mountain View Gym from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Hawai‘i Island United Way is partnering with the Hawaii County Civil Defense to coordinate the relief efforts for victims of Hurricane Iselle. If you or anyone you know would like to make donations of ice, water, household goods or hygiene items, or would like to offer manpower assistance to help with distribution of items, please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or anyone you know of is in need of assistance, please call Janice at 808-936-2268 or email email@example.com. For emergency assistance, please call 9-1-1. If you would like to make a donation to help with the relief efforts, you may do so at: www.hiunitedway.org/iselle