Goshen for Hawaii: Group raising money for wildfire victims

Apr. 3—GOSHEN — A local group is working to raise funds for wildfire victims in Hawaii.

The Goshen High School Class of 1972 is partnering with the Goshen Veterans of Foreign Wars for a fundraising event on May 4, featuring food, music and activities, and they're in need of community support. There will be chili dogs at the VFW, 1201 W. Pike St., a cornhole tournament in the parking lot of Maple City Bowl, 1300 W Pike St., and a silent auction.

"We've got a lot of Goshen coming in and donating things, but what we really need is more help, volunteers to come in on that day," organizer Debbie Brown added.

Almost 10,000 people have been displaced since wildfires broke out in Lahaina on the island of Maui, Hawaii in August 2023. Brown said when she left Lahaina in February, there were still 4,400 people displaced.

Brown was deployed with the Red Cross's emergency response team as a volunteer twice during the wildfires in Hawaii, once in October and again in February. Brown was a shelter resident transition member, helping to manage victim cases.

"I got to meet a lot of them and I got to hear a lot of their stories," Brown said. "When you go over there and you see the devastation, it doesn't hit you until you are right in the middle of a whole town gone."

Brown said after she got home, she knew she had more to do. The GHS Class of 1972 tends to get together frequently, Brown explained, and as a result, she had plenty of support to get her fundraising effort off the ground.

"The Class of '72 is a different kind of senior class," Brown said.

Elkhart County's 2023 Senior Fair Queen Debbie Johnson is also part of the Class of '72. She explained that with around 20 of their graduating class in attendance at the meeting, it wasn't too hard to find someone willing to volunteer for all the various things needed for a fundraiser from finances to food. They've partnered with the VFW in Maui and the VFW in Goshen.

"They need funds, so that's what we're doing," Brown said. "You see it in a picture, but when you're actually there, it's just so much bigger than you can actually see."

Brown is not without her own share of heartbreak. Brown lost her home in the February 2018 flood, and then during the pandemic, she lost her husband and mother just a month apart near the holidays.

"I basically kind of ran away," Brown said. "That's when I went there, and it changed my whole perspective on what I lost compared to what they lost. That's when the Lord started leading me to do something about it, and so we are."

The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the cornhole tournament from noon to 4 p.m. but may be extended out. They'll need help setting up in the morning and taking down in the evening as well as throughout the day.

Anyone interested in volunteering should contact Karen Higginbotham at 574-536-3870. Entry forms for the cornhole tournament can be picked up at Maple City Bowl and the Goshen VFW.

Contact Debbie Brown at 574-536-4233 for more information or with questions.

Dani Messick is the education and entertainment reporter for The Goshen News. She can be reached at dani.messick@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2065.