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From our President, Ozzy Samad

OLOWALU, HAWAII - AUGUST 16: A sign is posted on the side of the road on August 16, 2023 in Olowalu, Hawaii. At least 106 people were killed and thousands were displaced after a wind-driven wildfire devastated the towns of Lahaina and Kula early last week. Crews are continuing to search for missing people. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Responding to disaster and helping address longer-term needs – your impact on both fronts.

Having developed an avid interest in World War II history since my teenage years, though differing in magnitude, the burnt out remains of the town of Lāhainā in Maui, rekindled images of a near obliterated Dresden after the bombing runs over the German city towards the end of the war. As we come to terms with the damage and loss of life in Lāhainā, of note through the somber stories and pictures, is the spirit of community that we share as a country – to empathize in times of adversity, coalesce around and come to the assistance of those affected, and start the process of helping rebuild lives as best as possible. Your generosity and kindness have allowed BBF to respond once again to such challenges – as now faced by the people of Maui.

There are two major parts to BBF’s efforts:

Immediate Response:

As our initial response to the disaster, BBF is sending 14 pallets of baby formula generously donated by the Giant Eagle Corporation and two pallets of hygiene kits assembled by local volunteers at our warehouse on the North Side, along with providing grants to local organizations assisting wildfire victims such as the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement, the Maui Foodbank, and MODO for the People – a Maui non-profit extending no-cost medical aid to wildfire victims onsite at their clinic and via a mobile medical unit. We are continuing to assess the needs of those affected by the fires and will send more supplies and aid as appropriate.

Follow-up response and long-term recovery:

BBF’s strategy is based on our experience in responding to natural disasters such as those in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and Turkey, along with man-made crises such as Ukraine. For Maui, this is multifaceted, where in addition to providing locally sourced supplies as needed, BBF will:

  • Support the medical safety net on the ground: These include Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), evacuation shelters, hospitals in Maui County, the major burn unit at Straub Medical Center, and local non-profit providers treating mental and physical trauma in children and adults. BBF has compiled a preliminary framework of safety net partners which is a working document and is being updated on an ongoing basis. We are also in discussions with mental healthcare providers here in Pittsburgh with whom BBF has worked with extensively on our response in Ukraine and their colleagues on the island, to assess needs for the children affected by the disaster in particular.
  • Evaluate and support infrastructure projects as needed: Examples from BBF’s work in other disasters include providing resilient power sources such as solar panels and generators for medical and educational facilities, assessing needs for temporary modular housing such as those provided to families displaced by the earthquakes in Türkiye, retrofitting buildings like storm shelters in Puerto Rico, rehabbing of school facilities, and expanding the reach of providers by utilizing mobile health clinics to assist those impacted by the disaster. As you may know, BBF has provided four mobile clinics to address the needs of underserved community members in the continental United States and is planning for additional units to be implemented.

A Pittsburgh connection – as we were discussing BBF’s response to the wildfires in Maui, one of our Trustees saw Hawaii’s Governor, Josh Green, wipe his brow with a Terrible Towel at a press conference. Intrigued by the sight and after a little Google search, he revealed that Dr. Green graduated as a valedictorian from the Quaker Valley High School up the Ohio river from the City and did his medical residency at the University of Pittsburgh – a direct connection and small world indeed.

As always, thank you so much for your consideration and support of our relief efforts and BBF’s work around the globe.

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