Season for giving


POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

Demands on charitable organizations that help those in need have gone up as the state's economy has gone down.

“;The number of people needing help all over is way more than last year,”; said Scott Morishige, a program manager with Helping Hands Hawaii. “;We are seeing more families who are homeless or who are at risk of becoming homeless.”;

The Honolulu Star-Bulletin is partnering again with Helping Hands Hawaii to collect money and supplies for the needy through the Good Neighbor Fund drive. From today through the year's end, we will be collecting monetary donations for people aided by the Helping Hands Hawaii Community Clearinghouse. The public is also encouraged to drop off clothing and household donations at the Clearinghouse on Nimitz Highway.

“;This past year, we have seen more applications for rent and utility help,”; said Morishige, who manages the Clearinghouse and its Adopt-A-Family Christmas program. “;More families are falling behind because they have been laid off or had hours reduced at their workplace.”;

In 2008, the Clearinghouse provided $308,477 in emergency financial assistance for 2,653 households to pay overdue rent and utility bills, and for bus vouchers. As of Oct. 31, 2009, it already distributed $293,056 to 2,069 households, Morishige said.

Many ask for basics like food and clothing. Those who are screened by some 200 social service agencies can shop at the Clearinghouse warehouse for “;pre-approved, truly needed”; items like clothing, diapers and furniture—at no charge, he said.

The case managers who refer their clients to the Clearinghouse are “;really familiar with what the family needs to get back on their feet,”; Morishige said. “;From the outside, it may seem like this person's not making any effort (to be independent), but a case manager really has seen their development.”;

He added: “;One of the families didn't want anything but a job lead. Normally we don't get requests for that.”; Those seeking employment ask for the proper shoes and clothing, and others furthering their education need school supplies, he said.

With $528,000 from the federal stimulus package early this year, the Clearinghouse was able to start two new programs. The Food Stamp Outreach will help eligible clients apply for food stamps from September through December, while the two-year Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program will serve people at risk of losing their home, according to Morishige.

“;Last year, donors adopted 152 families through the Adopt-A-Family program. This year, we're expecting to see more families in need, and hope that more donors will be willing to lend a helping hand over the holidays,”; he said.

As an incentive to donors, on Dec. 20 the Star-Bulletin will draw five names from a list of all contributors to win $50 gift certificates for Ruth's Chris Steak House.




;Clothing, household items and gifts can be dropped off at the Community Clearinghouse, 2100 Nimitz Highway, next to Puuhale Road. Monetary gifts may be sent to the Star-Bulletin’s Good Neighbor Fund; c/o Helping Hands Hawaii; P.O. Box 17780, Honolulu, HI 96817-0780.


Checks made out to the Good Neighbor Fund also may be dropped off at any of First Hawaiian Bank's branches statewide through Dec. 31.


Call 440-3800 for more information, to sign up for the Adopt-a-Family Program or to arrange for pickup of large items.