Bringing Aloha spirit to Las Vegas, Hawaii’s ‘Ninth Island’

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 7:46 AM PST
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - With Las Vegas’ longtime nickname as the Ninth Island, the Hawaiian community continues to grow in Southern Nevada. Many former Hawaii residents turned Las Vegas locals said some of the reasons pulling them out of the islands and making homes in the desert include lower costs of living, family, and better opportunities. FOX5 sat down with three different women who left Hawaii and now call Las Vegas home.

Jori Galdeira moved to Las Vegas in 2011. “Right off the bat, I found that cost of living was significantly less than Hawaii. I was able to only have one job instead of three because back home I had three jobs being a single mom. It was tough,” Jori said.

In 2011, Jori said her first two-bedroom rental in Las Vegas was $900 a month compared to $2,500 a month for a two-bedroom in Hawaii.

In January 2023, median home prices for a single-family home on Oahu fell to just below $1 Million for the first time in 19 months. At the same time, Las Vegas Realtors reported median home prices in Southern Nevada were $425,000.

“I felt like the more people that I met, and the more people that I came across, and we’ve discussed why we moved here, we all had the same decision making, which was we need to have better opportunities for our children and our family,” Jori said.

Jori’s daughter Karley has been in choir, band, soccer, hula and has been on the Honor Roll most of her school career, “all these opportunities because of Las Vegas,” Jori said.

In 2021, Clark county saw one of the biggest growths of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations in the country. A study by the state of Hawaii’s tourism department says job opportunities are a major driver of people born in Hawaii moving to the continental U.S…even over affordable housing.

Bridget Ganigan is a teacher in Las Vegas. In 2003, she moved to Las Vegas for her husband to start a career with LVMPD. Bridget said the move was hard on her family. “The kids couldn’t adjust to it. Very homesick, cried every day, for maybe a whole year,” Bridget said.

Bridget watched the Hawaiian community in Las Vegas grow into what it is today. “My husband was like, you need to build your own community, you need to find your people, and you need to teach them your aloha spirit way. And once they get it, and then you’ll feel less homesick” Bridget said.

Bridget, along with other moms created a hula group for their daughters who danced back in the islands. As a teacher, Bridget brings in elements of Hawaiian culture into her classroom. She started a project called “Keiki and Kupuna” which translates to “children and grandparents.”

“I noticed that all the grandparents bring their grandkids, and they’re in charge of the grandkids. So I’m like, why are they just dropping them off? They need to feel good about this. We need to bring them in, they need to share their talents, show their pictures. So, ‘Keiki and Kupuna’. Because in Hawaii, we have that,” Bridget said.

Michelle Gamble has only been in Las Vegas for a little over a year. Her parents made the move to Las Vegas first before convincing her and her husband to move over with them. Michelle also

struggled with the transition. “It was a sacrifice to leave home and just kind of be homesick and it literally happened so fast. You’re talking about it within a week,” Michelle said.

“There was a reason because you know, people move out here for a reason, either it’s cheap, or they want to move closer to their family. That wasn’t a thing for us. When we came here. It was just be here for mom and dad to be happy. So with that, I knew that I was destined, there’s an assignment here for me,” Michelle said.

Michelle left her business back in Hawaii to pursue a career in realty. As realtors, both Michelle and Jori help Hawaii residents with their transitions to Las Vegas. Michelle, Jori and Bridget have never met but all spoke about how they spread the Aloha spirit in the Las Vegas community.

“The aloha spirit, everything is from the heart. You don’t do things because it just needs to be done. You do things with the passion. There’s a reason. It’s not just for the ninth Island connection. It’s giving aloha to everybody,” Michelle said.