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West Maui residents step up to support Women Helping Women

By Staff | Jan 22, 2015

With contributions from the community, the Women Helping Women shelter has an upgraded kitchen and laundry room.

WEST MAUI – Domestic violence is an ugly fact of life.

In 2013, according to Maui Police Department statistics, there were 5,000 cases on the island. Moreover, one in four women experience violence by their spouse or significant other in Hawaii.

Women Helping Women (WHW) is a safety net, offering safe haven 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, serving in 2013 127 women and 98 children, a total of 9,339 bed days.

But out of the ugly, a beauty is born; and, once again, without a doubt, Maui stands out as a loving and healing place.

Mauians have stepped up to the plate with a grand slam challenge, and a force of hundreds of volunteers have joined together to make life better for those in crisis.

Last May, the “Shelter Renew Project” was launched.

“How long have we wanted to fix the shelter?” Stacey Moniz asked and answered her own question, “years and years. We had a major renovation in 1995-96 where we added some space onto the shelter Since then, we have had different service groups come in and adopt-a -room. We’ve had Kiwanis, Rotary – different service clubs – come in paint a kitchen, paint a living room or paint the children’s room.

“It has been piecemeal,” the WHW executive advised. “What is most exceptional to me about this project is the whole shelter gets a face lift at one time, and that will help lend itself to the peace of mind” of the residents.

Moniz is more than passionate and excited about the contributions; she described the ongoing sponsorship of the program: “Oh my gosh, it’s incredible! I can’t even describe the generosity of our community. WHW has had so much support.”

The list is monumental.

“Maui United Way proposed adopting the Shelter Renew Project as a collaborative effort among its partner agencies and received immediate and enthusiastic response,” observed Laksmi Abraham, president and chief professional officer.

“Labor Community Services has taken the lead in coordinating a tactical plan and will coordinate and supply all the skilled and non-skilled labor required,” Abraham added.

The Bendon Family Foundation (BFF) was at the top of the list of monetary gifts.

“When Sandra Florence, a staunch community volunteer, approached the BFF with a request for funds to help in refurbishing the women’s shelter, the Bendon Family Foundation board embraced this project and took it one step further by offering a challenge matching grant of $50,000. The Maui community responded enthusiastically by matching these funds in record time,” BFF Director Susan Bendon announced.

“I cannot say enough about the generosity of the community,” Florence remarked, proud of the “energy the people have had coming around this project to make it happen in less than nine months.”

Maui Jim, with a $20,000 monetary gift, is the “lead donor.”

The West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force pledged rousing and successful support through an “Adopt-a-Room” campaign.

The 4,000-square-foot facility consists of seven bedrooms, three bathrooms, kitchen, living room, patio, offices, laundry, group room, computer room and children’s room.

“It was decided if we broke it up into rooms and called it Adopt-a-Room, then people attach and have means to contribute to some part of the project,” task force representative Renee Ward of Kapalua reasoned.

“The entire task force got together and launched a reach-out program. Sandra did an amazing job putting a package together, so that we could reach out to the community.”

Ward stressed the importance of the crusade.

“When your life is in crisis, and you have escaped with the shirt on your back and perhaps were used and abused, and you go into a home, and you’re trying to turn around your life, get stabilized, heal physically and emotionally and then make some really tough life decisions, you want a place that is safe, and you want a place that is comforting,” she said.

“And, if a house is in chaos, falling apart and in ill repair, it is not the type of environment that fosters this type of healing and thinking and decision-making. So it is critical to the whole process and in helping to stop the cycle and giving these women the space and the place and the tools they need to go forward. It is not optional. It is not fluff; it is important to the psyche and the soul.”

The response was exceptional.

Full Adopt-a-Room donors are Bonnie McLennaghan, Rolfing Family Foundation, Sophie Deloria Foundation, Kent and Polli Smith Fund, Mary Anne Fitch, Dawn Derego, Donna Posely, Fran and Don Mitsumura, Roz Baker, William A. Serov, Renee Ward, Sandra Brown, Lynnnette Loveland, Anne Jones, Hermine Harmon and P. Denise La Costa.

Others opted to jointly adopt rooms, including the Friends of the West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force, Friends of Sandra Florence, Friends of Rotary Club of Lahaina Sunset, Soroptimist International of West Maui and Aloha Realty Group and Friends.

There’s room for more.

“We still have rooms for adoption; we have $9,500 more that we need. We need to finish the adoption campaign. We have matched the $50,000, but we do need about $20,000 to help with the move-out, the move-in, the trucking, the rent to reposition residents for six weeks, so we’re still looking for about $30,000. We’re still banging on doors and holding our hat in our hand, and we’re hoping an angel to step in and help us with the $20,000 that we need for the logistics of the project,” Florence noted.

In-kind donations are also an option for the local philanthropist, like an eight-top table, computer and 60-inch television.

The major challenge, however, is the rental of an alternate location.

“We’re looking to start in early February; we don’t have a hard date. Six weeks (for construction) would take us to the middle of March. We need to find a four- or five-bedroom rental that residents can move to while we’re working on the shelter,” Florence said.

Sen. Roz Baker has been a member and advocate of the West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force since its inception in 2006.

“The shelter is a vital resource for our island. Victims of abuse need to be able to find safe shelter away from an abusive situation. Children may also be in the family, so mom needs to be able to find a safe place that will accept her children, too,” Baker said.

“That is what the shelter run by WHW does,” the West and South Maui lawmaker added, “So while the current shelter is undergoing renovation, we cannot leave vulnerable women and children unsafe or unprotected. It would be ideal if we can find a house to accommodate our clients while the shelter is under renovation. That would be an extraordinary donation. Significantly reduced rent is good, too. The agency may need to look at multiple sites. I’m not sure exactly what their strategy is, but whoever can step to the plate will literally be saving lives.”

Other members of the West Maui Domestic Violence Task Force are Danielle Bergan, Carol Brown, Jane Emery, Jackie Favors, Lynn Gottwald, P. Denise LaCosta, Liz May, Ruth McKay, Claudia Micco, Stacey Moniz, Renee Ward, Aimee Paradise, Sue Sargent and Maria Terra.

For questions, further information or to make a donation, call 242-6600 or visit the WHW website at www.womenhelpingwomenmaui.com/.