Big Isle charity's leader to retire
A new president will be named soon at the United Way
HILO » During her 19-year career as head of the Hawaii Island United Way Inc., two events stand out in the mind of Helen Hemmes: the first time the organization passed the $1 million mark, and a growing involvement in bettering society, not just collecting money.
Hemmes announced her retirement from the agency yesterday, effective Feb. 15. A replacement will be named soon, she said.
A sign of the changing mission of the Big Isle organization is the vote by the United Way board last month to begin participation in the nationwide Born Learning program, Hemmes said.
The concept behind the program is that every child is "born learning," and the United Way needs to help parents foster learning through interactions with their children as the young ones grow, Hemmes said.
Passing the $1 million mark came early in Hemmes' United Way career, in 1989, just two years after she joined the organization. The goal for this year is $1.5 million.
Other high points were making the organization truly islandwide on the Big Island and helping to establish the Teen Court program, in which teenagers decide real cases pending against their peers.
Hemmes was born in Rock Valley, Iowa, holds a master's degree in English from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and has held posts such as teaching English in Switzerland, working in community development for Hawaii County and serving as community coordinator for the Hilo Adolescent Family Life Project.
She is married to University of Hawaii-Hilo biology professor Don Hemmes. They have two sons, Kimo and David.