‘Personal affinity’ spurs advisor to help Maui wildfire recovery

Maui wildfire Destroyed homes and buildings in Lahaina, Maui, on Aug. 9

A Wealthspire advisor launches campaign that has so far raised $30,000 for the island.

One of Greg Friedman’s favorite photos from his many visits to Maui over the last four decades is an image of his father and his then five-year-old twins at the Lahaina train station.

The historic Hawaiian town was destroyed last week by wildfires that killed 111 people on the island. The devastation moved Friedman to launch his own fundraising campaign within Wealthspire Advisors, where he serves as chief strategy officer.

Friedman offered a dollar-for-dollar match for donations from Wealthspire employees who work in the firm’s west region, which stretches along the West Coast from Seattle to Southern California. So far, the effort has raised $30,000.

In addition to his travels to Maui, Friedman’s ocean-conversation work has a Hawaiian dimension. He serves on the board of the Marine Mammal Center, which has made protecting the Hawaiian monk seal one of its priorities. He also has clients in Hawaii.

“It’s my personal affinity for Hawaii,” Friedman said. “My heart goes out to the islanders, and this was my way of trying to help.”

Jason Pfannenstiel, senior wealth advisor at Bordeaux Wealth Advisors, has a strong family connection to Hawaii, where several generations have lived on Oahu since the 1800s. The family established the Harold Castle Foundation, which has funded the construction of hospitals and other philanthropic efforts.

Pfannenstiel travels to Hawaii about six times annually. He and his wife were married there. They scattered the ashes of a child who died in utero in Hawaiian waters. 

“Hawaii’s a very, very spiritual, meaningful place for us,” he said. “It’s absolutely devastating to see something like that happen there.”

He and his wife donated to the Maui Strong Fund. He has encouraged clients who are inclined to do so to contribute appreciated stock to the fund.

“We’ve had a few clients who have made generous donations to the Maui Strong Fund,” Pfannenstiel said.

The situation in Hawaii reminds Friedman of the wildfires that tore through northern California several years ago. He is based in San Rafael, north of San Francisco.

“This is hauntingly similar,” he said. “That’s exactly what happened here. Fires just took off and caused devastation that nobody really anticipated could happen.”

As Maui residents try to rebuild their lives, advisors can help in ways beyond charitable contributions, Friedman said. For instance, they can lend a hand in connecting victims to government, insurance and philanthropic assistance.

“The advisor can help navigate and research resources,” Friedman said. “We can bring experience to bear.”

A financial advisor has helped Joe Reed, CEO of Mana Pacific Inc., respond to the wildfires. Reed’s firm, which runs renewable energy projects across the Pacific Islands, is based in Kihei, Hawaii, about 15 miles northeast of Lahaina.

None of Reed’s employees died in the fires and there was no property damage at Mana Pacific’s headquarters. But the firm is facing a business challenge as a result of delays in revenue from its projects on the side of Maui where the fires raged. Those operations need loans to stay afloat.

Reed has benefitted from the help of Drew Chan, co-chief investment officer at First Foundation Advisors in Irvine, California, who is a close family friend.

“He has given me access to some of his network who may be interested in investing in our bridge funding,” Reed said.

Chan was not immediately available for comment.

The fires have roiled the life of one of Reed’s employees who lives in Lahaina. He and his family lost all their possessions. The employee’s mother owned the Old Lahaina House bed and breakfast, which succumbed to the flames.

Reed has provided housing for the employee and his family at Mana Pacific’s headquarters in Kihei. The office has several spare bedrooms upstairs. Island residents are supporting each other by providing housing, food, water and other help.

“It’s everybody in Maui helping Maui in every way possible,” Reed said. “People need a place to live until they sort out the next steps in their lives. That’s going to take a lot of time.”

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