The former talk show host’s promise comes days after she was filmed handing out supplies in Maui
Oprah Winfrey is doing her part to help out those in need following the Maui wildfires.
The former talk show host, 69, promised she will make a “major donation” to residents and areas affected by the fires — the death toll of which rose to 93 on Sunday — in a new video posted on Instagram.
“You know what this week has taught me is that when you don’t know what to do…you do whatever you can,” Winfrey said in the clip. “I went to visit one of the big shelters here at the War Memorial [Stadium] and asked people what it is they needed and then went shopping for some things, some, you know, basic things like towels and sheets and shampoo and other necessities.”
“And at some point, I will make a major donation after all of the smoke and ash have settled here and we figure out what the rebuilding is going to look like,” she declared.
Related: Oprah Winfrey Makes Donations and Helps Residents amid ‘Overwhelming’ Hawaii Wildfires
Winfrey, who was filmed handing out supplies at the War Memorial Stadium in Maui on Aug.10, acknowledged in the clip that rebuilding the island “is going to be a long and difficult process.”
She shared that she had been spending time at the shelters in Maui where she “met so many incredible people” including one man named Julius, who told her his harrowing account of how he narrowly escaped the fires.
“I said, ‘Julius, tell me what you need,’ because his legs were covered in bandages where he had to run to escape the fire,” Winfrey recalled. “And he said to me that he could ‘feel his skin popping’ as he was running. He got out of his car because the tires were melting and he couldn’t move forward and just started to run.”
She continued, “and when I said, ‘tell me what you need’ he said, ‘Mam, I need nothing. My life is now my greatest gift. I have my life.'”
Related: Everything to Know About the 2023 Hawaii Wildfires, Including Ways to Help the Victims
Winfrey said that, despite so many families having little left following the fires “they are so grateful just to have each other.”
There “is such an incredible spirit going on in this entire community,” she added. “I know that, long after the camera crews are gone and the rest of the world has moved on, the rebuilding will just begin. And Hawaiians are a strong cultural people and a family-loving people and with the help and support, you’re going to hear a lot of Phoenix stories rising from the ashes here.”
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The wildfires were first reported on Aug. 8 and have devastated the areas of Lahaina and Kula in Maui, the second-largest island in Hawaii, as thousands of residents and visitors have had to evacuate. Strong winds and low humidity are said to have fuelled the fires, along with Hurricane Dora, a category 4 storm about 500 miles south of Hawaii, according to the National Weather Service.
On Sunday, Maui County confirmed the latest death toll of the fires at 93, making the fires the deadliest in the U.S. in a century, with only two people identified. The number of fatalities is expected to rise as the search for missing residents continues.
The total cost of damages from the fires is at an estimated $1.3 billion, according to CoreLogic, and will likely take over $1.2 billion to reconstruct.
On Friday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency for the state of Hawaii, while a day prior President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for the state of Hawaii.
“We are seeing loss of life,” Hawaii Gov. Josh Green said in a news conference on Thursday and described the fires as the “greatest emergency we’ve seen in decades.”
Below is a list of several organizations accepting donations to help those affected by the wildfires:
Hawaii Community Foundation: The Office of the Governor of Hawaii directed donors to this fund to support communities affected by the wildfires on Maui.
Maui Mutual Aid Fund: This group of volunteers accepts donations to support Maui families, elderly residents, people with disabilities and those with limited or no insurance.
The Salvation Army’s Hawaiian and Pacific Islands Division is accepting donations to provide meals for people displaced in Maui emergency shelters.
Maui Relief Fund: Aloha United Way, a Honolulu-based nonprofit organization, created this fund that will go directly toward efforts supporting victims of the fires.
Maui Food Bank: While the organization has staff on the grounds helping those affected, they are accepting donations to help with relief efforts.
Together Rising: Kerry Washington directed her followers to Together Rising, which vows that every “penny [they] receive will go to urgent relief and vital support.”
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