Category Archives: Press releases

Mask & Sanitizer Give-Away

Provided from Federal CARES Act funding through the Office of Councilmember Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder.

We will be giving out free Kuleana masks and hand sanitizer from Malama O Puna facility Monday Sept 28 at 2:30pm until 4:00pm and Tuesday Sept. 29 at 2:00pm until 4:00pm. If you can’t make those times, please call 965-2000 to set up more pick up times later this week.

Malama O Puna is located at 15-2881 Pahoa Village Road three doors down from 7-11.

Malama O Puna Assists in Distributing Masks and Sanitizers in Puna under COVID 19 CARES Funding

Keeping healthy and safe during this pandemic is of great concern to all individuals and businesses on the Big Island. Malama O Puna, a community based educational and environmental nonprofit operating out of Pahoa, is happy to collaborate with the Office of Hawaii County Councilmember Matt Kaneali`i-Kleinfelder to ensure access to sanitizer and masks. These supplies were purchased with funding from the federal CARES Act and will be distributed in the Puna district to schools, businesses, community organizations, and individuals in need of these supplies, the cost of which has placed an additional financial burden on the public.

Malama O Puna is grateful to the District 5 Councilmember for securing these supplies, as we have worked successfully with Councilmember Matt Kaneali`i-Kleinfelder on numerous projects that have provided benefit to the people of Puna including the Pahoa Roundabout Beautification project, a Miconia Eradication project, and a Pandemic Food Distribution program for Kupuna. According to Barbara Lively, Executive Director of Malama O Puna “It is our Kuleana to help keep the good people of our Big Island safe during these very challenging times”.

Supplies of masks and sanitizer are limited, so if you know of individuals, businesses, and/or community organizations that need masks and/or sanitizer, please contact us.

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Aloha Malama O Puna Members,

We want to thank you and send a heartfelt “Mahalo” to you all! We also want to let you know how much we appreciate all your new and continued memberships as well as all your private donations; we couldn’t exist without them. Now, your support is more important than ever as we all meet the challenges of the Covid-19 Pandemic. We are happy to report that we are continuing with restoration and conservation projects in areas identified as critical habitat for various native species and we have thus far, completed (2) lava road recovery projects during the pandemic. Our work here is literally “never done” and will continue, even during a pandemic, as long as it is safe and prudent to do so. Below please find information on how you can continue to provide financial support to Malama O Puna, at no additional cost to you!

Malama O Puna always supports buying local first. However, if you’re shopping on Amazon anyway, you can make a donation to us at no additional cost by using this Amazon Smile link whenever you shop on Amazon. Thank you for continuing to be there for us and for supporting our efforts and service to our community. Please stay safe and stay healthy.

A Hui Hou!

Remembering René

Shared from Celeste Elson, René’s hanai daughter:

On June 29, 2020 René Siracusa, tenacious and passionate community activist and loving Hanai Mother and founder of Malama O’Puna, passed away peacefully and surrounded by loved ones at the age of 82.

René Siracusa was born on May 3, 1938 in New York, NY. She discovered the wonders of Hawaii in the late 1960’s, after traveling the world as she studied Linguistic Anthropology. Though she ultimately abandoned her PHD for political reasons, René put her knowledge of fourteen languages and her Masters degree from UH to great use. Once Pahoà captured her heart, she dedicated half her life to Puna. René was The Grand ‘Ol Dame of Community Service.

To list all the organizations, non-profits, groups, grants, programs, individuals and animals she started or helped would take up too much time and paper to record. She would also say, “It isn’t about me.” René lived a very simple life, off the grid, using candles and hurricane lamps to read by, rain water to bathe with. Rescued animals for company and rescued people for family. A force of nature like no other.

René is survived by her cousins: Kyra, David, Larissa and Michael Ray Robinov. Her hanai sister, Lisa and Mighty Joe Young. Her hanai children: Celeste Elson, Jason Hutchins, Angela Renee Wilmot and Jeffery Robinson; Kehaulani and Andy Pickering; Pua and Thomas Seyfort. Her hanai grandchildren: Cain Footracer, Jackson, Elysia and Ethan.

On June 30th, René was interred in a private ceremony. We hope to have a public celebration of life soon. Please contact Ariel Murphy through Facebook for details.

If René touched your life, please consider a donation in her honor to her preferred charity: Rainbow Friends Animal Sanctuary.

Or do something for your community, for your neighbor, for an animal in need. Be honest, choose love, stand up for what is good, fair, and just!

Thank you for everything you have given us all, René. You are missed. You have left a very large vacancy for someone with such a small frame. You are a daughter who left the world a better place.

COVID 19 Pandemic Response for Puna

Inside refrigerator truck
Malama O Puna worked with Councilman Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder of District 5 on a program entitled “COVID 19 Pandemic Response for Puna”. This program provided 300 large food baskets to households in need while at the same time helping to boost some of the small agricultural businesses in Puna. Distribution of the food took place on Friday, June 26th, and focused on ensuring our kupuna are fed during this trying time. Punachicks Farm, LLC provided 225 chicken packages (thighs, drumsticks, boneless skinless breast, and wings) and 60+ noodle and broth packages. Johnson Family Farms participated by providing fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetable to accompany staples like rice, rolls and other non-perishable food provided by Y Hata & Co. Ryan’s trucking provided a refrigerator container at their Keaau baseyard which was used as the staging site. Many of Puna’s non profit organizations participated in the distribution included Malama O Puna, Bodacious Women, Hui Aloha O Puna Makai, Men of Pa`a and many other groups and individuals.

“We really enjoy working with Councilmember Matt Kanealii-Kleinfelder to help families in need at the same time lifting up local small agricultural businesses that are having a hard time operating during this pandemic. It’s a win-win for everyone” offered Eileen O’Hara, who is temporarily acting Executive Director of Malama O Puna as it transitions to new leadership after its long time President, Rene Siracusa, stepped down.

Malama O Puna Donates Land to Ho’oulu Lāhui

Just in time for Christmas, Kua O Ka La Public Charter School will be getting a nice big present to aid in their lava recovery. Puna nonprofit Malama O Puna has just donated its 9.38 acre forested lot in Nanawale Estates to Ho‘oulu Lāhui, the nonprofit that supports Kua O Ka La public charter school. The lot was originally donated to Malama O Puna by Nancy Duff, daughter of the developer of the subdivision, with the proviso that it be used for education and/or recreation. Malama O Puna allowed the land to reforest itself naturally after a wildfire, controlling weeds from time to time, but not really doing anything with it. Its board recently decided to put it to better use.

Kua O Ka La lost its campus to the 2018 lava flow, and its temporary one at Nani Mau Gardens is not in Puna, although its students and staff are mostly based there. Kua O Ka La’s curriculum has a strong focus on Hawaiian culture and biology: the students learn about native plants by propagating them and giving them away to the public every year for Arbor Day. The parcel in Nanawale will now be dedicated to this program and a greenhouse will be built.

MOP president René Siracusa and Ho‘oulu Lāhui president Luika Imaoka executed a memorandum of agreement outlining the mutual understanding of the two nonprofits, and on December 11th signed the Quitclaim Deed at the attorney’s office. The land transfer is now official and the students, who endured the disruption and uncertainty of the natural disaster, will now have a large, beautiful parcel in which to learn, flourish and thrive. Both nonprofits are thrilled about the future for our youth.

International Rat Lungworm Conference

What: 6th International Rat Lungworm Conference
When: January 5-8, 2020
Where: Hilo Hawaiian Hotel, Hilo, HI
Cost: Free and open to the public
Registration & more info at workshop website: The 6th International Workshop on Angiostrongylus and Angiostrongyliasis

Malama O Puna is teaming up with the County of Hawai’i (Council contingency funds from Districts 2, 5, 6, 7, and 9, plus Research & Development grant), UH-Hilo College of Pharmacy, the Hilo Chinese community, and others. Learn about rat lungworm and the latest research so you can help educate others, and protect your family and neighbors.

MOP President Rene Siracusa with exhibit and educational materials promoting the upcoming 6th International Rat Lungworm Conference in January. MOP is acting as the fiscal channel for the event, as many of the grants and donations require a nonprofit for the charitable


On behalf of the organizing committee, chaired by Dr. Susan Jarvi, Malama O Puna is pleased to announce that many of the world’s leading experts will be presenting their research at the upcoming 6th International Workshop on Angiostrongylus and Angiostrongyliasis (Rat Lungworm Disease) at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel on January 5-8, 2020.

Over 230 people from nine countries have registered for the workshop, which will address prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of the disease, as well as its ecology, epidemiology, and education. For Hawai‘i, the Workshop offers a rare opportunity for our clinicians, veterinarians, farmers, government agencies, educators and others to hear first-hand from these pre-eminent researchers, which will help address rat lungworm issues here in Hawai‘i.

We humbly request your consideration in donating to help support this event that is so vital to our islands. Rat lungworm disease has already affected our local economy in the restaurant & food sectors, agricultural industry, and tourism. Moreover, members of our own community — along with visitors, domestic pets, and wildlife — have suffered or are currently suffering from this disease.

We have been pleasantly surprised that registration has exceeded our expectations; however, funds from current sponsorships have been committed for the increasing venue and food costs. To help ensure we can accommodate all participants and that our distinguished, VIP guests (~ 75 people) experience the full aloha spirit of Hawai‘i, we would like to support the items below with your help.

Monetary donations will contribute to:

  • Food costs and conference materials for all participants
  • Fresh flower leis for VIP guests
  • Accommodations at the Hilo Hawaii Hotel for VIP guests
  • A planetarium show at ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center & a field trip to Hawai‘i Volcanoes Nat’l Park for VIP guests.

In addition, we would like to provide gift bags with samples of items from local businesses to VIP guests. We welcome donations of samples to fill 75 gift bags (such as sample bags of coffee, chocolates, or other small items). Please coordinate with our team for timing of perishable items.

Several levels of donation are available for your consideration and all donations are tax-deductible.

Please see the sponsorship form (PDF) for details and contact or 808-932-7148 for more information. Thank you for your time and consideration!

Landscaping of Roundabout—it takes a community

Since the completion of the Pahoa Roundabout, it has gone through several iterations, the most recent being a seedy weed garden. Many people in the Puna community have expressed disgust and disapproval of the impression that it made as the entrance to Pahoa and the Puna makai area. So, in typical Puna fashion, the community has stepped up to the plate to address the problem. Here’s how:

Malama O Puna (MOP), an environmental nonprofit, signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Mainstreet Pahoa Assn. (MSPA) to partner on a re-design and landscaping of the roundabout in two phases. The first phase would be just to address the medians (weeding, landscaping and maintenance) and would be spearheaded by MOP. For Phase two, MSPA would hold town meetings to solicit ideas and designs for the central hill, and oversee installation of the final selection. MOP, after several meetings with Donald Smith, then filed a proposal to the State Department of Transportation, which was approved. It also requested funding assistance from Ashley Kierkiewicz (District 4) and Matt Kaneali’i-Kleinfelder (District 5) for Council Contingency Funding; both agreed, and the resulting Resolution was passed unanimously by the County Council. MOP then added the project to its liability insurance policy.

The obvious first step for the medians was weed removal. MSPA put MOP in touch with Youth Challenge, a National Guard program for at-risk youth ages 16-18. The program has 8 core components: academic excellence, life-coping skills, job skills, health and hygiene, responsible citizenship, community service, leadership/followership and physical fitness. Program leaders agreed to arrange for their team to do the initial weeding, with quarterly follow-ups.

MOP then reached out to our Puna community policing officer, Eddie Cardines, to provide safety guidelines for the youth while they worked in the roundabout. He also brought orange traffic cones to alert drivers to the youths’ presence. Fifteen young men and their two leaders, Davis Enriques and Kathy Herring, turned out on Saturday morning, March 23, ready to work. MOP provided safety vests for them, which were partly donated by Hubs Hawaii, Inc. Officer Cardines provided Gatorade and energy bars out of his own pocket. The youth were scheduled to work for four hours, but completed the job in two. The medians are now weed-free and ready for planting.

MOP is now seeking donations of plants which can thrive in full sun. It is also seeking volunteers who would like to plant them. This is a community project, by and for the community, and everyone who contributes in whatever way will be recognized. To either donate or volunteer or both please contact René at We can create more beauty in our beautiful Puna. Mahalo plenty.