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Lifestyle // Island Matters
Mufi Hannemann

Compassionate Community Service

The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a “twist of service,” according to Laurence Leamer, journalist and bestselling author.

Now that April is upon us and spring cleaning is in full swing, perhaps it’s time to turn over a new leaf and join thousands of volunteers across our great state during National Volunteer Month, where faith-based groups, nonprofits, corporations and their employees haul out wheelbarrows, paintbrushes, rakes and trash bags. Numerous community-service projects in Hawaii have been launched in the spring, setting the tone for public service opportunities throughout the year.

Allow me to recognize four organizations providing great examples of compassionate service.

First Hawaiian Bank (FHB) just rolled out its Community Care program aimed at partnering with nonprofits through its employee-led volunteer service groups. “On March 29, more than 250 employees helped three Oahu public schools with $200,000 worth of repairs. Our community and service projects will span across the Islands, not just on one given day but throughout 2014, and our next project will be held May 31, helping a nonprofit (The Arc Hawaii) service people with intellectual and developmental disabilities,” says Vivian Adams, vice president of FHB’s Human Resources Division. Additionally, through FHB’s employee-giving program, more than $4.1 million was raised over the past seven years to benefit various charities in Hawaii, Saipan and Guam (fhb.com/en/fhb-community-care-program).

Meanwhile, the Bankoh Blue Crew is going green Saturday, April 26. Bank of Hawaii’s Live Kokua, made up of employees, will spear-head numerous efforts to celebrate Earth Day. Several hundred enthusiasts will swarm Hawaii in support of earth-friendly activities, including assisting Kokua Kalihi Valley to till a 7,000-square-foot garden at Kuhio Park Terrace. “Our employees will be happy to get down and dirty in digging soil and vegetable seed planting so that more families can reap the benefits of fresh produce,” says Momi Akimseu, vice president of Community Engagements and Events. Another large group of Bankoh workers will plant itself in East Oahu to help restore Maunalua Bay and rid the area of invasive algae. Employees participated in $3.1 million worth of charity giving in 2013 alone. (boh.com/sites/community/l ivekokua.asp)

Also April 26, Hawaii Community Day of Service will be launched by nearly 5,000 members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), as they partner with government, nonprofits and civic teams to spruce up the communities in which we live. “In 2014, organizers are making a special effort to call on various community leaders to band together in the name of public service regardless of religious affiliation,” says Dennis Kim, LDS Church public affairs director.

Kathy Kamauu has been one of the multiple coordinators with the old Mormon Helping Hands Hawaii initiative. “We now call ourselves Hawaii Community Day of Service. Our goal is to step up our efforts to partner with other religious and service groups. It is important to recognize our similarities rather than our differences. When we perform service together, it can strengthen our relationships,” says Kamauu. “We have invited members of New Hope, Bethel Church and others to join us.” In 2013, approximately 4,800 turned out in full force and reached across Hawaii, putting in a total of 16,559 hours of volunteer work.

Being part of an army of good Samaritans on one given day may lead to stellar success. One new thing with Hawaii Community Day of Service is a project aimed at servicing the USS Missouri. “Our Young Single Adult congregation from Waipahu will devote the day to cleaning all areas of the ship,” says Kim. In the past, beneficiaries such as Kahuku Medical Center were suitably impressed.

“More than 60 participants were assigned to clean various parts of the hospital last year, including painting curbs, power-washing sidewalks, yard work and window washing. It’s wonderful when people sacrifice and unselfishly give of their time,” says CEO Stephany Vaioleti. (mhhhawaii.org)

And finally, another church group, which donates an average of 1,000 hours of community service yearly to help seniors, families in crises, youths, veterans and immigrants is Catholic Charities Hawaii (CCH). CCH, like the LDS Church, is well known for its efforts to assist the American Red Cross with disaster relief efforts. Executive director Joy Bulosan says the organization’s new Volunteer Services and Community Engagement program brings together area residents and organizations through service learning experiences. “We saw a need to further engage staff and existing supporters as well as address the influx of requests from parishes, schools, service groups and businesses for service opportunities,” says Bulosan. (CatholicCharitiesHawaii.org)

So, you see, it just takes a soft heart and willing hands to make a difference in our islands. The good part is: No hands-on experience is required, just your sweet, valuable time and desire to do good. May we lead the nation in compassion and giving during this National Volunteer Month and throughout 2014 in Hawaii, where spreading the spirit of aloha and charitable giving is a way of life.

mufi@mufihannemann.com

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