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King City
March 1, 2024

Out of the ashes: South Monterey County residents deliver quilts to Maui

King City Quilt Guild donates items for those displaced by wildfires

KING CITY — It began as a suggestion from a friend, and it took on a life of its own. Randy and Terry Lewis and David and Janice Phillips, three retired teachers and a retired dentist, had been friends for decades.

They raised their kids together through King City schools, and Janice and the Lewises taught side by side throughout their careers, David practicing dentistry right across the street. They had traveled together, including a memorable trip to Hawaii some years earlier.

As Janice’s health declined over the past year, Randy stated emphatically, “We need to make one more trip to Hawaii.” There were concerns about her health and travel logistics, but when Randy said, “You know, Janice is like a sister to me,” the decision was made and the trip was booked.

There were concerns about whether or not Janice would be healthy enough to travel, but the planning went forward. Then, as Janice suffered a serious downturn, it was evident that her five-year battle with cancer was nearing an end. When she passed away, discussion of the trip resurfaced. “We can still cancel.” Or… It was decided that yes, indeed, they still needed to make one more trip to Hawaii together; destination Maui, departure date Oct. 4.

A week after Janice’s passing, Maui erupted in devastating fires. Nearly 100 have been confirmed dead, and over 2,000 buildings, mostly homes, were destroyed. On an island with a population nearly identical to the city of Salinas, nearly 8,000 residents were suddenly displaced, most having lost their homes, many businesses were gone, and an economy that depends on the tourism industry ground to a halt. 

After an appropriate wait, an inquiry was made to the property management company at the condominium: “Is it OK to still come?” The answer was an emphatic yes, please do come; the island needed its tourists back. The trip was still on, and now with an increased purpose, supporting the local economy and the people of Maui.

Days before the departure, there was a call from the King City Quilt Guild. They had made 16 quilts that needed to be taken to Maui as a donation to the displaced residents of Maui from the quilters of King City. The guild has provided “comfort quilts” to many local residents as well as victims of disasters, such as the Paradise Fire and the fires in Canada and Australia. 

The suitcase full of quilts gave the trip a heightened sense of purpose, no longer simply a time for close friends to continue their mutual journey of recovery from the loss of a loved one, but suddenly an opportunity to help others in their own journeys back from loss.

Workers at the Maui Quilt Shop in Wailuku were grateful to receive the donation of “comfort quilts.” (Contributed)

The quilts were presented to two delightful women at the Maui Quilt Shop in Wailuku who were very pleased and grateful. As they go about their daily duties at the shop, they are donating their time and resources to this quilt distribution project. They explained that they had become something of a clearing house for quilters across the nation and that they had received and distributed hundreds of quilts. 

Assurance was given that each quilt would go to someone in need, and that each recipient would be told that the King City quilters had provided this offering. They were also delighted to hear that the King City quilters were already working on the next load, bringing the total to 34 so far, with the next shipment to be delivered compliments of a local Target store.

During the week, a chance encounter occurred with Catherine, a woman who was staying in the same condominium but under different circumstances. She explained that in her little town of Kula, a half hour away from the devastation of the larger town of Lahaina, 19 of the 20 homes on her block had been destroyed. Hers was still standing. 

She talked of the devastation and loss that her friends and neighbors had sustained, and explained that it would be months before she would be allowed back into her home. While in her case it was temporary, she too was among the homeless victims of the fire. She shared the pain of her neighbors, and the trauma of being displaced. 

And then she commented that through all that she was “living my best life” on the sands of Kihei. She was being housed in the condominium, moving periodically to clear a unit that had a reservation for a traveler. During the week she moved into her sixth “new home.” She saw her glass half full; her neighborhood was gone, but the kindness and generosity of others had provided her a refuge.

Stories of kindness, generosity and perseverance always shine through the darkness of tragedies. The loss can’t be undone, but the actions of others can help with the healing.

Anyone interested in joining in the effort to aid those affected by the Maui fires can do so by donating to one of the many legitimate relief organizations, including Maui Strong (operated by the Hawaii Community Foundation) and United Way of Maui, both of which are sanctioned by the County of Maui.

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