Like so many others, Liza Rivera couldn’t stand idly by during the COVID-19 crisis—she had to do something to help.

As the pandemic grew in intensity, Rivera, a Realtor with Keller Williams Realty Maui, couldn’t stop thinking about the images that flashed across her television screen every day: grieving families, weary doctors and nurses, people waiting in long lines at food banks. One day in late April, she turned off her TV and decided to take action. “I really wanted to make a difference,” she said.

First, she rounded up 150 protective face masks for state Department of Land and Natural Resources officers who were working to keep Maui’s beaches safe during the pandemic. After that, she set her sights on the Maui Food Bank. She picked up the phone and called Chelsey Ham, the food bank’s community relations manager. “I told her: “I want to help—what can I do?” Rivera recalled.

And that’s when the plan for a mobile food drive took shape.

After a flurry of phone calls, Rivera and four helpers—her son, Jeremy, twin daughters, Anjolina and Olivia, and husband, Raymond—spent two weeks driving around picking up donations for the Maui Food Bank. “Most people did not want to leave their house,” she explained. Donors included family members, friends, clients and members of the Koa Puna Motorcycle Club.

When Rivera realized Keller Williams Realty Maui would be holding its RED (Renew, Energize and Donate) Day on Thursday, May 14, she contacted team leader Lisa Teichner, who encouraged Rivera to hold a food drive as part of RED Day. Introduced in 2009 with the tagline “give where you live,” RED Day is an annual day of service held on the second Thursday of May to celebrate the birthday of Keller Williams’ Vice President Mo Anderson. On May 14, a mask-clad Rivera, along with Keller Williams Realty Maui Realtors Randy Antonio, Dylan Bode, Nancy Montoya, Riley Shannon Relfe and Annmarie Pickering, accepted drop-off donations at the company’s Kihei, Kahului and Kaanapali offices. In just two hours, they filled six shopping carts with 936 pounds of food; they also collected more than $3,000 in monetary donations.

By the end of May, Rivera and her fellow volunteers had collected 1,222 pounds of food and $4,504 for the Maui Food Bank. She says she’s inspired by the generosity of others. “The response of the community and fellow Realtors was amazing,” she said. “Seeing so many people step up to help… it gives you chicken skin.”

And Rivera isn’t finished. She’s still gathering donations through a virtual food drive and hopes to help more people in need in the weeks to come. The Maui Food Bank serves thousands of food-insecure people countywide, including the rural communities of Hana, Molokai and Lanai. Now more than ever, food and monetary donations are needed to meet the unprecedented demand and help feed families, children and youth, seniors, the homeless—anyone who is at risk of going hungry. You can help provide hunger relief to those in need by making a food or monetary donation to the Maui Food Bank. You can also shop for food donations online through a virtual food drive. To learn more about the Maui Food Bank or to inquire about volunteer or donor opportunities, visit www.mauifoodbank.org or call 243-9500. To contribute to Rivera’s virtual food drive, visit https://mauifoodbank.org/liza-rivera-kwr.

Photo by Chelsey Ham

The Maui News – June 1, 2020

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