Lessons in giving


POSTED: Sunday, December 20, 2009

It started out as just another class project, but fifth-grader Patrick Owens of Aikahi Elementary School gained the gift of empathy while gathering Christmas presents for needy families this year.

Owens, who belongs to Janet Anderson's class, was among 500 students who took part in an annual schoolwide effort called the Giving Basket. This year, all fifth-grade classrooms were assigned to fulfill the wishes of a family consisting of a father who lost his job, a mother and three children who are living on the beach, he said.

“;I really wanted to help them. Sometimes they can't help it (being homeless). They can't just apply for a job and just get it. Sometimes they have no skills to apply for a job.

“;They gotta find food, and sometimes they have to beg. Then people get annoyed with them begging. It's a very harsh life. ... It's a privilege for them to eat. If they eat, they feel lucky,”; Owens said.

For more than 20 years Aikahi's students and their parents have demonstrated boundless generosity, and this year was no exception, even with the constricting economy, said coordinator Amy Solomon.




And the winners are ...

        Those who donated to The Good Neighbor Fund were entered in a drawing for $50 gift certificates for Ruth's Chris Steak House. Five winners have been selected at random: Parry I. and Toe Malae, Victor and Pat Meyers, Grace K. Sasaki, Mr. and Mrs. Calbin K.H. Loo and Elaine Miura. Certificates will be mailed.

Thank you to everyone who has donated—donations will be accepted through the end of the year.




The families are referred to the school by the Helping Hands Hawaii, which is also supported by the Star-Bulletin's Good Neighbor Fund.

When Owens' classmate Emily Ahlgreen first heard about the family, “;I felt: Oh my gosh! How can they be surviving? I like camping, but spending my life on the beach! It just feels like you're their Santa Claus putting presents under the tree. It feels really good.”; She said she is thankful that “;I can look in the cupboard (for something to eat) and it's full.”;

Owens said of the plight facing homeless families: “;They don't have a place to bathe, and they need soap and stuff. They have to take a cold shower. ... And it's not like they can go wash their clothes, because they don't have a quarter for the Laundromat. It makes me feel very grateful for what I have. I compare their life to my life. And I have so many things they don't have.”;

Part of Aikahi's tradition is placing all the gifts, decorated with big ribbons, on the cafeteria stage for the Christmas program, and unveiling it to show the kids what they've accomplished.

“;The kids all kind of go 'Wow!' and cheer,”; Solomon said.

“;This is the best day of the school year,”; said sixth-grade teacher Alex Kauhini. “;They get so excited when the curtain opens. Sometimes you see big items like bunk beds, or bicycles; you see baskets completely overflowing. You see the schoolwide effort and the impact you can make with just $5 or $10 (per student).”;


Star-Bulletin staff $774.25
April Leong $600
By Request Donations $478
Sharon Matson $250
L.B. and M.K. Goldstein $120
Merry Christmas from The Andrew Chings $100
Jane F. Kishida $100
Mr. and Mrs. Calbin K.H. Loo $100
Helen M. Matsunaka $100
Michael and Darlene Sanders $100
R. and M. Satake $100
Carolyn Whitney $100
Nancy Harrison $50
Elaine Miura $25
Kalyani Muralidharan $25
Annajean Ray $25
Rowena Ahakuelo $20
Branda L. Bernardino $10
Anonymous $25
Total $3,102.25
Previous total $5,248
Grand total $8,350.25