CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Maria Chomyszak of Helping Hands Hawaii says these empty food shelves are usually filled.
Charity hopes isle givers can still dig deep
The Good Neighbor Fund seeks donations that will aid the needy
IN THE PAST YEAR, Hawaii residents have given generously to help survivors of the tsunami in Thailand and Indonesia, hurricanes on the Gulf Coast and earthquake in Pakistan.
Now, when charity is aimed closer to home in the holiday season, social service providers are hoping that islanders' generosity has not reached its limit.
"We are concerned that this may be a lean Christmas," said Maria Chomyszak, program manager of Helping Hands Hawaii. "After the tsunami, the hurricanes, we are afraid people may be weary of giving."
The agency's Community Clearinghouse already has beds and couches stacked in its Kalihi warehouse, a good sign for the kickoff of the Star-Bulletin's annual Good Neighbor Fund.
Despite that recent donation from Ashley Furniture, there is a lot of space -- and need -- for more furniture, as well as household goods and clothing, toys and children's items.
Contributions may be dropped off at the Community Clearinghouse warehouse at 2100 N. Nimitz Highway from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Helping Hands Hawaii will dispatch its truck for larger items. Call 536-7234 to arrange a pickup.
"A lot of people ask for beds, especially bunk beds," said Chomyszak. "Washers are in big demand, and stoves. People need blankets and towels." The agency does not accept refrigerators.
"We need clothing for adults and children. Some only have one change of clothes. For a lot of families, they just hope to have some gift, some surprise for the children at Christmas," she said.
Monetary donations are distributed throughout the year through an emergency assistance fund to give people one-time-only help with the rent or a utility bill or a bus pass. The agency also buys gift certificates to provide families with items on their wish list that don't show up at the warehouse.
And Helping Hands Hawaii invests heavily in disposable diapers. "There is a huge need, and they are so expensive people can't afford them," said the manager.
None of the money is used for Helping Hands Hawaii's operating expenses. The agency has four paid staffers. "We rely on volunteers a lot."
"The number of clients we serve is growing every year," said Chomyszak. The recipients are referred to Helping Hands Hawaii by several social service agencies.
Who are the needy? "It doesn't seem to be different from last year," she said. "We see large families, single parents, individuals."
Some are homeless, sleeping without a roof over their heads. They are families living in crowded quarters without adequate beds or cooking facilities. They are children going to school in raggedy clothes. They are parents unable to provide a single Christmas gift for a child.
Who are the Good Neighbors? The position is open, no experience necessary, and no limits on generosity.
GENEROUS DONORS CAN HELP DURING HOLIDAYS
Monetary gifts may be sent to the Star-Bulletin's Good Neighbor Fund, c/o Helping Hands Hawaii, P.O. Box 17780, Honolulu, HI 96817-0789
In addition, checks made out to the Good Neighbor Fund (not cash or gifts) can be dropped off at any of First Hawaiian Bank's 56 statewide branches.
Clothing, household items and gifts can be donated at the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
You may also participate in the Adopt-A-Family program, in which businesses, employee groups, social clubs, families or individuals help a specific family.
Call 536-7234 for information about the program or to arrange for pickup of large items.