Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson pledged $10M for Maui wildfire survivors

April 24, 2024 11:10 am

[Source: AP]

Lana Vierra misses the swing set at her Lahaina home, which was reduced to ashes in the wildfires that swept through her community last summer.

“Multiple generations went through there playing in my front yard,” she said. “Just with the animals and the turtles and the deer and goats that we once had in that little tiny yard.”

A grandmother of four and a mother of five, Vierra had lived in the home on a corner lot since 1991. She and ten family members, including a baby less than one year old, were displaced in the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. In the weeks that followed, she and her adult children applied for and received many different kinds of assistance, including from the People’s Fund of Maui, an initiative set up by Oprah Winfrey and Dwayne Johnson.

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All of them, except one adult son, have since received six monthly payments of $1,200 directly in their bank accounts from the People’s Fund. Vierra credits the payments with helping them stay current on their mortgage, which they had to pay even though the house was destroyed. When she learned she would receive direct payments, she said, “That was in the back of my head that if I had to use it, I had it. And it would probably save my house.”

When Winfrey and Johnson launched the People’s Fund for Maui, which benefitted people who lost their homes in the wildfires, they committed $10 million and asked others to join them. At the time, the request was met with some criticism, given especially Winfrey’s wealth and extensive estate in Maui.

In the end, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a longtime nonprofit that helps celebrities administer charitable work and that managed the distribution of the funds, said it raised almost $60 million. That money was dispersed between September and February to some 8,100 adults — a significant portion of the 12,000 people the state of Hawaii estimates were displaced.