Elemental Funk: (front row, from left) Miles Watanabe (sax, trombone, vocals), Wade Inouye (trombone, vocals), Brian Yamamoto (lead vocals), guest artist Justin Klunk (sax), Nick Lobato (trumpet), Jon Matsunaga (sax, flute); (back row, from left) Ed Shimizu (keyboard, vocals), Danny Hirota (guitar), Jeff Ng (drums), Dan Matsuda (bass).

Rafu Staff Report

GARDENA — A buffet dinner and concert to raise funds to assist those affected by the Maui wildfires took place on Sept. 3 at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute with about 300 people in attendance.

Featuring music by Elemental Funk, the sold-out event was co-presented by One Ohana Collective and GVJCI. The collective was created by Ted Kawasaki of The Loft Hawaiian Restaurant, restaurant friends and Elemental Funk to help the victims of the devastating fire. Close to 100 volunteers helped out.

Hālau Hula Keali`i O Nālani, under the direction of Kumu Hula Keali`i Ceballos.

Slightly over $57,000 was raised.

GVJCI Executive Director Alison Kochiyama (left) and emcee Helen Ota.

“We are very grateful and blown away by the overwhelming support from all of the restaurants and the community coming together in such a short time to try and do something for the people of Lahaina,” said Elemental Funk lead singer Brian Yamamoto.

Helen Ota served as emcee. Opening prayer was delivered by Rev. Allison Mark of Faith United Methodist Church in Torrance. Dignitaries who expressed their support included Rep. Maxine Waters, Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda and Torrance Mayor George Chen.

Dignitaries included Rep. Maxine Waters and Gardena Mayor Tasha Cerda. Behind them is Torrance Mayor George Chen.

There were video messages from actor and activist Tamlyn Tomita; ABC 7 newscaster David Ono, who showed footage from the aftermath of the fire in Lahaina and announced that the “Defining Courage” program at El Camino College on Sept. 9 would also raise funds for Maui; and Lahaina resident Jared Sato, who related his harrowing experience on the day of the fire.

Hālau Hula Keali`i O Nālani, under the direction of Kumu Hula Keali`i Ceballos, gave a hula performance. The program also included a raffle drawing and a silent auction. Though space was limited, many attendees got up and danced to Elemental Funk’s music.

Elemental Funk’s oldies had some attendees dancing in the aisles.

Sponsors included The Loft Hawaiian Restaurant (Torrance and Cerritos), Elemental Funk, Aloha Pizza & Shave Ice Co., Auntie Maile’s Hawaiian Restaurant, GVJCI, South Bay Rice Things, Cherrystones Restaurant, Gardena Bowl Coffee Shop, and Friends of the Vine.

Business/organizational donors included Jerome Tanibata (Full Force Graphics), Giuliano’s, Danny Wong (Keyline Litho), Ross Yamamoto (Hamakua Musical Instruments), Halau Hula Keali’i O Nalani, Chip Hino (Mixer Ink), Curtis Kasuyama (Kirin, Kona Brewing), Guy Mato and Cindy Nakagawa (Island Street Foods), Russell Nakada (Label Service), Owlvericks Coffee, and Faith United Methodist Church.

In addition to dinner, there was a large assortment of desserts.

Individual/family donors included Christian and Shelley Bagay, Walter and Ruby Hiraishi, Wade and Tami Hiraishi, Lola and Gary Hongo, Peter and Lisa Inouye and family, Wade Inouye, Norma Ishigo, Wayne and Audrey Ishimoto, Mae Kawasaki and family, Harold Keiting, Bunky Mar, Laraine Miyata, Wayne Nagao and Carol Tanita, Sharon Osato and family, Nancy Sasaki, Randy and Gail Sasaki, Alan and Jean Shinseki and family, Sue Watanabe and family, Roger Yamashiro and Mickey Yokoi.

Photos by J.K. YAMAMOTO/Rafu Shimpo

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