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Keiki Cupboard helps disadvantaged students with school supplies, West Side and island-wide

By BY CINDY SCHUMACHER - | Aug 3, 2017

Winner of the Maui Rotary Club’s annual Award for Best Vocational Service, Keiki Cupboard believes that no child should lack the basic tools for learning.

Keiki Cupboard, a nonprofit organization presently assisting 21 Maui schools, is dedicated to providing necessary school supplies and shoes to children who need them.

As a recipient of the Maui Rotary Club’s Annual Award for Best Vocational Service, the Keiki Cupboard staff believes that no child should lack the basic tools for learning.

Sadly, financially strapped parents often cannot provide the items required for their child in school. For many reasons, countless children start the first day of the new school year without a backpack and the supplies to fill it.

“This is the young person who inspires and drives Keiki Cupboard,” explained Vice President Toby Neal.

“We provide a storage unit, or cupboard, on each participating school campus filled with the necessary items. The materials are then distributed by school staff without shame or red tape.”

“Keiki Cupboard exceeded my expectations as a wonderful program that provides the much-needed tools for a child’s successful entrance to the start of their school year,” said Roxanne Sinenci, Parent Community Networking Center facilitator for Princess Nahi‘ena‘ena Elementary School and Keiki Cupboard board member. “Donations and volunteers are much appreciated.” PHOTOS COURTESY OF KEIKI CUPBOARD.

Neal, who is also a popular Maui novelist, continued, “My sister, Keiki Cupboard President Bonny Ponting, and I came up with the idea for Keiki Cupboard based on our experiences in Maui’s public schools. I was a public school counselor and my sister an involved parent. We saw firsthand how many families struggled to provide their children with learning supplies every year. We’re happy to have started a grassroots organization that does all fundraising outside of schools, so as not to burden economically strained families any further.”

Neal and Ponting continue to be thrilled by how the community and businesses support them.

“It’s a simple mission, and it makes a surprising difference,” said Neal. “It’s confidential, discreet, and the look on a student’s face when they get what they need is priceless!”

“It amazes me how our all-volunteer organization has grown,” Ponting added. “It is a testament to the generosity of the people of Maui that we are able to use the money that is donated to value-shop and distribute these much-needed supplies. Our goal is to be in all 28 schools in Maui County, and every year takes us closer, one cupboard at a time.”

Currently, Keiki Cupboard is in two West Side schools: Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary and Lahainaluna High School.

“We go into new schools as they request and as budget and volunteer hours allow,” Ponting noted. “We decided early on to keep the organization all-volunteer, so we needed to proceed with deliberation.”

Roxanne Sinenci, PCNC (Parent Community Networking Center facilitator) for Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School and Keiki Cupboard board member, was introduced to Ponting and Neal a couple of years ago. “As a very busy parent-child coordinator, I was hesitant about the cupboard, at first thinking that it would involve extra work for a staff that already had too much on their plate,” she said.

Sinenci was also unsure of follow-through. “Many organizations start out strong and helpful, then dwindle quickly in their efforts,” she explained.

“Keiki Cupboard exceeded my expectations as a wonderful program that provides the tools required for a child’s successful start of his school year. It is a program that assists parents who otherwise may not be able to provide the supplies that their child would need. Our freedom to dispense the supplies – crayons, flash drives, pencils and pens, ear buds, slippers, the always-necessary backpacks – with no application process is perfect. There is no shame for the kids, no extra work for the administration, and the supplies are restocked year-round. I was so impressed I became a board member.”

Sinenci has four children who all attend school at the same time and need supplies, so she knows what it’s like to look at those lists and ask, “Where do I start?”

“The feeling of not being able to afford supplies can be overwhelming. Keiki Cupboard is available to assist, so that students can start the school year on a happy note,” she said.

If you would like to help Maui children this year, please consider buying school supplies and dropping them off at a participating school near you.

If you would like to make a donation or volunteer to Keiki Cupboard, visit their website at keikicupboard.org or call (808) 280-1021.