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Hawaiian shaved ice shop in Montana organizing fundraiser for Maui relief

Winchell serves customers
Posted at 9:42 AM, Aug 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-16 11:44:26-04

BILLINGS - For most Montanans, the wildfires in Maui are thousands of miles away, but for the owners of Aloha Coffee on the west end of Billings, they hit close to home.

Aloha Coffee owner Roz Winchell's family has deep ties to the Hawaiian islands.

"My mom was born and raised there," Winchell said. "We still have family living on Oahu. We try to get there as much as we can."

Winchell's mother, Pauline Cox, grew up in the Honolulu area, and she said watching her state burn has been devastating.
"Think of all the homes and history on that beach, and in the blink of an eye, it was gone," Cox said. "Imagine losing everything you worked for all of your life."


The 71-year-old met her husband years ago when he was stationed in Hawaii for the Navy.

Eventually, the two moved to Billings and she found her second home. Still, her passion for her home state runs deep.

"My heart will always be there," Cox said. "We have memories. There's just memories there that will not leave me."

Cox said many of her immediate family are no longer alive, but she still has extended family living in Oahu.

They also know many friends who live in Maui.

"I can just imagine all of these people losing their loved ones and losing part of their livelihood," Cox said. "It's devastating."

The total of confirmed dead sits at 99 people as of Tuesday afternoon, and more are still missing.

Winchell said she can't stop thinking about the stories of struggling families.

Maui Destruction

"Their homestead, native Hawaiians," Winchell said. "So, this is the only thing they've known. It's heartbreaking. When you go through tragedy, like that it's just heartbreaking for everyone involved."

Winchell's ties to the islands extend further than just family. Her business, Aloha Coffee and Shaved Ice, was created with one goal in mind.

"I wanted to bring the authentic shaved ice to Billings, Montana," Winchell said.

So, with the help of her family, Winchell created a product she's proud of.

Shaved Ice_2.12.1.jpg

"I actually reached out to my family that lives there and they helped me make it as real as possible," Winchell said. "I have my connection there. They helped me get going so I can only return that."

That jump start to her business is part of what inspired Winchell to organize a fundraiser to help those affected in Maui.

This weekend, 10% of all sales will be given to two nonprofits: the Hawaii Community Foundation and United Way of Maui, she said.

"I would love to get on a plane and go help them, but that's not possible right now," Winchell said. "This is a way we can. We know the funds are going to be used for the Maui families."

It's a gesture that means a lot to Winchell and her family, and one her mom said embodies true Hawaiian culture.

Winchell makes Coffee

"Everyone tries to help everyone else, the best they could," Cox said. "It really is one big 'ohana' (family in Hawaiian). That's just the way the island runs."

Winchell said the decision was a no-brainer and her best attempt at helping a place that means a lot to her.

"It's just the love they gave me that I want to give back," Winchell said.

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