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Schools overwhelmed by donations of supplies

By Staff | Aug 13, 2009

From left, Becky Altier, Todd Hayase, Lori Koyama and Matthew Erickson stand before tables of school supplies Old Lahaina Luau donated to Princess Nahienaena Elementary School, King Kamehameha III Elementary School and Lahaina Intermediate School. Photo by Shanna L. Badon Dellomes.

LAHAINA — Last week Wednesday, five representatives each from King Kamehameha III Elementary School, Princess Nahienaena Elementary School and Lahaina Intermediate School (LIS) were invited to the grounds of Old Lahaina Luau to pick up items collected during the company’s annual employee school supplies drive.

The Lahaina News was flooded with five-star reviews describing the benefit.

“It was unreal. We walked in there yesterday, and it was set up like a gigantic store. There were school supplies galore. One section was notebook paper, another section was crayons, the next section was pencil boxes, and then composition books, and then these colorful folders. It was amazing. I was blown away. I was so excited — we were like little kids in a candy store,” commented Claire Tillman, the Parent Community Networking Center facilitator at King Kamehameha III.

“Everything imaginable that our school needs this year,” the excited PCNC added.

Educators from LIS drove away with enough supplies to fill the beds of two pickup trucks.

LIS PCNC Becky Altier was overflowing with compliments.

“It was overwhelming how much we received. Everything about it was just so over-the-top. It was so unbelievable.”

A collective statement was issued by the principals of all three schools — Kaipo Miller of Princess Nahienaena, Steve Franz of King Kamehameha III, and Marsha Nakamura of Lahaina Intermediate.

It read in part: “Through the efforts of Matthew Erickson and the overwhelming contributions of ALL the employees, our schools received much-needed supplies to help students and teachers throughout the year. It was truly overwhelming to see the display of thousands of supplies that they collected for the West Maui schools.”

The supplies were distributed evenly between all three schools.

At the school level, the supplies are given discreetly to students in need.

“It’s hard economic times right now, and there’s parents that are struggling just to make ends meet. It’s a big investment what the kids are required to bring to school. If you’ve got a couple of kids in school, it’s a substantial amount of money. If we’ve got community support like we do, we can help these students, so that they have basic school supplies to begin their year,” Tillman explained.

U‘i Kuaana, a sixth grade teacher at LIS, was heartfelt in her testimony about the importance of the donations.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to provide our students with new, unused supplies. I know how hard it is, especially for our single parents to provide the basic necessities to be successful. I only wish this kind of support and generosity was around when my oldest daughter was in elementary school. Once a single parent myself, I tried my best to provide for her. It was very upsetting for me when my daughter was reminded daily by her teacher that she needed to bring in her supplies that I simply could not afford at the time… When I became a teacher, I bought extra supplies, so that my students would never have to feel the way that my daughter did. Now, I am able to help more of my students thanks to the efforts of the employees of the Old Lahaina Luau,” she said.

Erickson, Old Lahaina Luau supervisor of reservations, organized the drive for the over 200 participating employees of Hoaloha Na Eha Ltd. and its family of companies, including Old Lahaina Luau, Aloha Mixed Plate and Hoaloha Productions.

Erickson was rightly proud of their success.

“I work with some of the most phenomenally giving and selfless individuals on the island. Most of my coworkers are in the 18- to 35-year-old bracket, and it astounds me the sense of community kuleana this ‘ohana holds and heeds. Many of them are parents, and even in these trying times while raising some of their own, families dug deep and assisted us to provide the astounding donation to our three West Maui schools.”

He explained that community service is part of their employment terms.

“The partners (of Hoaloha Na Eha, Ltd.) have created a vision for themselves and us. And part of that vision is being community-minded and active within the community. We do three large drives a year as employees. Typically in the spring, we do a canned food drive, then in the summer months our school supply drive. During the holidays, we also have a toys-for-tots drive as well,” the enthusiastic Erickson remarked.

The partners have also created a position dedicated to employee and community relations.

Julie Yoneyama has various functions at Hoaloha Na Eha. Erickson described one of her more important tasks.

“Julie assists various departments with our annual Adopt-an-Organization project, where departments adopt a nonprofit organization, and employees provide services for that organization through the year. In addition to this, we host various drives where she selects a coordinator and/or committee who then heads up that particular drive.”

“Our employees never cease to amaze me,” Yoneyama observed. “Every year they seem to outdo themselves. This year was a tough one. Matt and I weren’t sure what kind of response we would get because of the economy. Last year our drive was over before the real big downturn. As you can see by the donations, the employees still were willing to participate in this community fund-raiser.”  

The founding partners responsible for the cooperative spirit of Hoaloha Na Eha are Michael Moore, Tim Moore and Robert Aguiar.

Michael Moore is passionate about their commitment.

“We have always felt that being in business in a community comes with some very clear obligations. We employ nearly 300 people right now. When you consider their families, teachers, clergy and neighbors, we are directly affecting a huge chunk of our local community. You have to start thinking in terms of ‘We are the community; the community is us.’ ”

“Of course, we have to take care of our neighborhood,” Moore continued. “It’s just pono. And living and working somewhere like Lahaina… so important on so many levels — culturally, historically, geographically — you feel even more that you cannot just operate a business here without being a part of the bigger picture.”

“We are so very fortunate to have organizations like Old Lahaina Luau who recognize the needs in the community and are so willing to fill those needs. They live the spirit of aloha. We are grateful and extend a huge mahalo,” concluded the three principals in their statement.