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StarBulletin.com

Giving, not getting


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POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Months ago, when Christmas was far away, some enterprising young people took it upon themselves to make sure that this would be a holiday season of giving—not just receiving—many times over.

Community service is nothing new for students at Sacred Hearts Academy and Punahou and St. Francis schools, but during this time of economic challenge and hardship, their helpfulness has never been more appreciated.

But that doesn't mean they can't have a bit of fun in the process.

In the week leading up to Thanksgiving, Punahou senior Dee Mosher headed an “;Art Work for Food”; campaign to help the Hawaii Foodbank. Specially made thank-you cards, featuring original artwork by Mosher and his young charges, went to those who donated food at specific small businesses around town.

The effort meant a wider audience for the young artists, as well as helping with the local hunger concern.

At St. Francis, after the school's Thanksgiving Mass, students presented a check for $2,500 to Hawaii Catholic Charities. A little more than half of that donation came from the school's annual penny carnival and class coin collections—students poured their coins into 5-gallon water jugs.

Canned goods collected at the Manoa school's Halloween costume contest and as “;admission”; to the carnival totaled more than 800—and went to the Franciscan sisters of Our Lady of Kea'au to help feed the homeless in Leeward Oahu.

PUBLIC AND private schools statewide take part in the Student Aloha program coordinated by the Aloha United Way, averaging more than $7,000 each in contributions.

At Sacred Hearts the total so far this year is $12,000, cash earned through fundraising activities such as a “;dress down day”; ($3 allowed the girls to wear shorts, jeans, slippers and sunglasses—ah, but with a school shirt), homeroom coin collections, a bake sale and a Halloween “;Costume for a Cause”; event.

December has shaped up to be the busiest month for the Kaimuki school. For the 15th year, students, accompanied by St. Nick, will throw a Christmas party for families in the Loliana Hale shelter in Kakaako.

Even Sacred Hearts' youngest students have helped, either with projects for cancer patients at Tripler Army Medical Center, by volunteering at Easter Seals' recent Gingerbread Family Festival or writing cards to Hawaii National Guardsmen in Kuwait.

Fourth-grader Liberty Huff sent one of the hopeful messages: “;My gift for you is my prayers and my aloha and some Hawaiian sunshine!”;

 

Givers receive happy returns

“;Giving can be fun,”; said St. Francis School senior Chardonnay Pa'o. “;The penny carnival our class organized showed that while it was great to have a good time, I'm glad we could help out the community.”;

In this case the community was represented by Hawaii Catholic Charities, the recipient of a sizable donation from the private school's fundraising activities. All that fun from the penny carnival—karaoke, dunking booths and sales of baked goods, lumpia and soda floats—helped raise $2,500. According to the charities' representative, it was enough to feed and house four families for a month.

“;Now that I'm older,”; said senior Chelsea Seki, “;it's the smaller things that make me happy. Like, instead of putting together a Christmas list, I may just want one thing. But now I like the family aspect of the season more, the feeling of being together.”;

THE MOSHERS have helped strengthen that familial bond through their art. In conjunction with an art-and-food outreach project launched by son Dee Mosher, he and his parents—Melissa and Hugh, a Punahou School art teacher—jointly showed their work at the school's gallery for a week leading up to Thanksgiving. At the exhibit's opening, canned goods were collected for the Hawaii Foodbank.

“;We still learn from each other,”; Hugh said, “;and Dee helps me out learning more about digital art, with what he knows about mechanical drawing as he prepares to work for a degree in engineering when he goes to college next year.”;

Dee's growing sense of altruism was first expressed in an eighth-grade paper on family values. He wrote of learning from his aging great-grandparents that the most important value is kindness.

“;He found out that one of his strengths is to help people,”; his mother said, “;and that while you don't always understand the circumstances of their plight—why are they poor or hungry or homeless—it's not at all scary to volunteer your time and support.”;

Dee has also volunteered at Bishop Museum, worked with disabled children at Easter Seals and even helped teach his parents' summer art classes for fourth- and fifth-graders.

Within the Mosher family, Christmas has never been a big gift-giving experience. “;We'd rather make art to share and to give away to other family members and family,”; said Dee.

Dee is working on a design, using his father's childhood family photos, that will fill out a cookie tin cover.

“;And even though I'll be away on the mainland for my studies,”; he said, “;I know that sense of value in helping others will still be strong from my family.”;

IN A large classroom at Sacred Hearts Academy, a small Christmas tree has been dubbed the “;angel tree,”; decorated with the wishes of youngsters who live with their parents at Kakaako's Loliana Hale.

The school's service clubs have adopted the 43 families at the shelter, hoping to fulfill as many of those wishes as possible.

“;And we also get practical things for the families that they can use throughout their stay,”; said senior Janelle Matsuura. “;I've seen their reactions of thanks from them before, and I realize that because of the little or no opportunities they have had in their lives, no matter what little we can do for them, it really helps them. And our teachers and parents contribute as well.”;

On Friday some students organized a “;Fast for a Better Tomorrow”; that addressed the global problem of human trafficking. During the fast, girls in junior Chelsea Rabanal's service club prepared hygiene kits for the female runaways who live in the Waikiki Youth Outreach shelter. The students went to the shelter over the weekend to personally hand out the kits and get to know these young women whose circumstances are so different from their own.

Chelsea said, “;Doing projects like this, it all helps, little by little.”;