Maui, HI

Tito’s Vodka and Team Rubicon Take on Wildfire Recovery in Hawaiʻi

Chrissy Wojtewicz

A joint service project on Maui helps restore native plants to their rightful place—and provides mitigation against future fires along the way.

In February, dozens of volunteers from Tito’s Handmade Vodka joined Team Rubicon volunteers, or Greyshirts, in the field in Maui, HI. Together, the volunteers worked on a project designed to both help homeowners recover from the August 2023 fires, and help mitigate against future wildfires in the area. 

The operation took place on a hillside in Kula, within the burn scar, and adjacent to a burned gulch. During an earlier fire recovery operation there, Team Rubicon sawyers had cut downed and burned trees on the property and chipped the debris for Kula Community Watershed Alliance to use for soil stabilization ahead of the rainy season.  

At the property, Tito’s volunteers installed protective circle fencing around an area where wildfire survivors would plant native trees to regenerate the land and improve stabilization. The native trees would also replace fire-prone invasive species that had overtaken the area. 

Maui service project volunteers.
Tito’s volunteers on the Maui service project.

Team Rubicon’s Greyshirt editor sat down with Tito’s own Chrissy Wojtewicz to learn more about the partnership and what the service project was like.  

Team Rubicon: Why do this service project, now? 

Chrissy Wojtewicz: At Tito’s, giving back is a part of our culture, and whenever 20 or more of our team members are together, we volunteer to support the community we’re in.

Getting to roll up our sleeves and give our time and talent in Maui was a very special experience, as we had worked with a number of nonprofits on the island to provide monetary support for recovery efforts immediately after the fires. However, we know that recovery is a long and ongoing effort and it was an honor to be able to come out and provide continued support for the Maui community alongside Team Rubicon.

Team Rubicon: You were in Maui less than a year after the fires. Was it what you expected? 

Wojtewicz: Over the years, Tito’s has worked with nonprofits responding to disasters all around the world, and we know that recovery and relief efforts require long-term support, so being in Maui less than a year after the fires we understood that it would be a community still reeling from the effects of the fires, and we hoped that whatever help we could provide would be meaningful and further advance recovery efforts for the entire community.

Team Rubicon: You worked at a wildfire survivor’s property within the fire scar. What did you see?

Wojtewicz: Being on the hillside was moving; we were able to see the entire valley below and how a small fire can have huge repercussions. We were also able to see a hillside that had been scorched trying to come back to life.

Team Rubicon: Was the work what you expected? 

Wojtewicz: Yes, Team Rubicon did a fantastic job describing the multiple steps required to protect the land from future fires and how the work our volunteers were doing would support the overall effort.

Our volunteers left feeling accomplished, and some people were eagerly huffing and puffing, excited about the work that was done and feeling pride in their contributions.

Team Rubicon: How do you feel about the work you did to help the community recover? 

maui service project volunteers
Tito’s volunteers and Greyshirts climb the hillside in Maui.

Wojtewicz: Our volunteers were excited and grateful for the opportunity to support the Maui community alongside Team Rubicon. In addition to the work we did with Team Rubicon, our teams were also able to support recovery efforts across the island, which was an incredibly moving experience and most of our volunteers were asking how we could do even more.

We know the impact of the fires extended all throughout the community and we’re thankful we had the chance to give back to a community that has been through so much.

Team Rubicon: What did you learn during the Maui service project? 

Wojtewicz: I learned about how invasive species can impact the island and how removing them is an important part of fire mitigation. We also had the opportunity to interact with local residents and learn about their experiences with the fires and what our work with Team Rubicon and fire mitigation efforts mean to them.

Team Rubicon: What else about this service project was meaningful to you? 

Wojtewicz: There was a homeowner I met who was the best part of my personal experience. She came to me after our volunteers had finished for the day and gave me a thanks in Hawaiian. It was very emotional and touching! Overall, completing this project gave me goosebumps and left me wanting to contribute in other ways. Thank you to Team Rubicon for teaming up with us at Tito’s and giving us the chance to support fire prevention efforts in Maui!

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