GOOD NEIGHBOR FUND
AIRLINE ADOPTS THE NEEDY
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
United Airlines customer service employees Carl Golden, left, Liana Neff and Francine Araki delivered beds and toys to a family in Salt Lake last week.
United in charity
For more than 25 years, the employees of United Airlines have been playing Santa Claus to needy families linked with the Community Clearinghouse's Adopt-A-Family Program.
The company's seven departments each adopt two or three families, and fundraising efforts usually go on throughout the year in anticipation of giving someone much-needed Christmas cheer, says Liana Neff, supervisor of United's customer service department.
Neff and representative Francine Araki coordinate their department's giving spree.
Araki said she can't say enough about the generous spirit of her 170 fellow employees: "I love working with these people. They wait for it (the Christmas project). Someone is always asking, 'When we are doing this or that for the families?'"
A few years ago, Araki started buying water at Sam's Club and selling it at work for $1 a bottle throughout the year to pay for their Christmas donations.
"It's amazing that through water sales alone, we were able to give to three families, (including) big-ticket items like the two large beds," Araki said.
Employees also conduct bento and bake sales, silent auctions and other fundraisers to buy the extras, along with gift certificates so families can prepare Christmas dinners, she added.
Also this year, they raised enough money to help two families in their department who had suffered catastrophic property losses, Araki said. Neff added that United also raises funds for the Hawaii Foodbank, the Blood Bank and other charities.
In United's mechanics department, clerical worker Ann Wong is the prime mover of the Christmas giving. She started donating her used items throughout the year to the Clearinghouse about eight years ago.
"I give from my heart. I can't give all the money I have, but I have a very good feeling and I just want to do it. I don't critique them (the needy), I just give things I would want to receive. ... If I can make one child happy, I will do it," she said.
Neff said the hundreds of United employees who give regularly are "not rich at all. We've taken pay cuts two or three times, but we have a good life. They enjoy it; it's part of their makeup."
"We have a lot of single mothers and fathers who are putting their children through college. Francine is a single mom," Neff said.
Araki also heaped praise on several who always come through, including Colleen Tatsuguchi, Estelle Valdez, Joanna Ferreira, Toni Ota, Colleen Lee, Tanya Hayes, Carl Golden, Douglas Oshiro, Stephanie Awa and Michelle Richardson.
The Community Clearinghouse, run by Helping Hands Hawaii, also is the beneficiary of the Star-Bulletin's annual holiday Good Neighbor Fund drive, which collects donations and funds for the group.
Donations as of Friday
|» The C. Chings
|» Charlotte and Kenneth Muraoka
|» 3M Hawaii Employees
|» David and Annie Hallstein
|» Annajean Ray
|» Aiko Oshiro and Jan Yoshimura
|» C. and S. Wang
|» Markie and Oreo
|» Star-Bulletin "By Request" Donations
|TOTAL DONATIONS TODAY
|TOTAL DONATIONS TO DATE