Categorized | Featured, Volunteering

HIUW donors get creative raising funds

Kerry Okinishi, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Cary Cantere, and Brandee Menino share a moment at the Hawaii Island United Way fundraiser. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Margaret Masunaga)

Kerry Okinishi, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Cary Cantere, and Brandee Menino share a moment at the Hawaii Island United Way fundraiser. (Photo special to Hawaii 24/7 by Margaret Masunaga)

Special to Hawaii 24/7 by Margaret Masunaga

When we are all worried how we are going to pay our bills and get out of debt, the last thing I want to do is attend a fundraiser.

However, Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Mauna Lani was different and not just because I could feast on lunch prepared by Chef Sandy Tuason. I heard from hotel employees who shared how they raised money for Hawaii Island United Way.

Gary from the Royal Seacliff organized employee bake sales and bento sales. Marilyn from the Waikoloa Shores recycled plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Mauna Lani employees hosted an Indiana Jones theme event. Lori from the Hilton Grand Vacations had the managers wash cars in exchange for donations. Fairmont Orchid employees donated their services for a silent auction that included cooking a private dinner, sewing services, and a day cruise on a yacht.

These visitor industry employees really think outside the box to create innovative ways to raise money for our charities on the Big Island when economic times are tough.

I was moved to tears watching a Hawaii Island United Way video. (See it at

I watched the story of a parent express his gratitude to the Arc of Hilo for helping him with a disabled son who has the intelligence of a 5-year-old child.

I shed tears when hearing the story of a family that had Hawaiian Homes Land, but lived in a vehicle on the property, then a shack before the 2006 earthquakes hit.  HIUW and Habilitat for Humanity built a home for her family.

Then I hear Brandee Cachola Menino speak about the work of the Office of Social Ministry, a recipient of HIUW funds, and how the organization reaches out to the homeless population.

Only in Hawaii do they look for homeless people living in lava tubes.

The emergency shelter has 72 bed spaces. Yet, when the staff counted how many people are homeless on the Big Island, they counted 1,000 in one week!

Cary Cantere, the young man seated next to Mayor Billy Kenoi and me during lunch was the next speaker.

Cary shared his story of being incarcerated and getting out of jail, and being homeless, living “in one bridge” before the Office for Social Ministry offered opportunities.

Cary recalls OSM “gave me my own room at no cost. I was shocked and in tears. Someone in my community believed in me, and gave me hope. If I wasn’t here, I would be dead.”

Now, Cary told us, “I’m giving back to the community because my community gave back to me.”

Kerry Okinishi, who went to the same elementary school as Kenoi, gave a speech from the heart and said, “my healing is spiritual.”

He recalls his time in jail as being in utter darkness and in total despair.  He thanked the Big Island Drug Court (Judge Greg Nakamura was the presiding judge) and Big Island Substance Abuse Council (BISAC).

“This island is a special place,” he said. “I have an attitude of gratitude.”

— Find out more:

Hawaii Island United Way:

Brandee Cachola Menino, Office for Social Ministry Homeless Programs Administrator: 938-3050 or 933-6013

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