Sunday, November 18, 2001

Remember 9-11-01

A Community Clearinghouse helper gathered toys Thursday
to be boxed for distribution.

Charity group issues
appeal to help the needy

Clearinghouse needs help delivering
relief in wartime slump

By Pat Gee

The Community Clearinghouse is not only about being Santa Claus at Christmas.

Now that thousands of isle workers have been laid off work since Sept. 11, the agency wants to meet the needs of anyone "strapped in an emergency, they don't have to be a welfare person," says Clara Olds, events manager for Helping Hands Hawaii, the Clearinghouse's parent company.

But Olds said the Clearinghouse is not yet ready to handle the increased requests for everything from washing machines to baby clothes.

"We are really counting on the public's help. A lot of people's needs will not be met unless the people in Hawaii really come through" with their donations, she added.

Today marks the kick-off of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin's annual Good Neighbor Fund, which for years has helped raise funds and other donations for the Clearinghouse from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

A few success stories show that the Clearinghouse is making a difference for people in need. (Real names will not be used to protect the privacy of clients.)

>> "Jayna," a single mother of three, started working in the Clearinghouse office in December, training to become an office worker. Now she's been hired full-time, helping clients find what they need in the warehouse.

"I want the other (people) to see I was in the same predicament. I want to show that if you work hard enough, life will change. It can happen." Jayna said.

"I feel so good about myself, that I've accomplished a lot. I really learned a lot and really appreciate how my life has turned around. (Before) I felt like I was never going to get a full-time job; I didn't have the skills to work in an office. And with no experience, I couldn't put it on the applications."

With all the toys at the warehouse, it certainly feels like Christmas to children who come in and can pick out what they want, she said.

>> "Kelly" works at a shelter workshop and makes a little money stringing candy leis. She could not afford to buy dentures. Only one person responded to her request for help last year, but it was the right person -- a lab technologist who offered his services free of charge to make Kelly's dentures, according to Olds.

>> Last Christmas "Barbara" asked the Clearinghouse to get her a bus pass so she could find a job and go to work. When she found employment at a fast-food outlet, she could not afford to purchase the uniform and shoes. So the Clearinghouse cut her a check to cover the cost, Olds said.

>> "Sarah" said assistance from the Clearinghouse is providing therapy for her children, who were traumatized from seeing their father beat their mother. Sarah was pregnant with twin girls when her husband, strung out on drugs, "beat me through my pregnancy and tried to fly me out of the car on the freeway," she said.

She left with her children a year ago, and he was jailed for abusing her as well as for theft. Now he's out, and "he doesn't know where I'm at." In the meantime, her kids are having a hard time at school, and her 6-year-old son is afraid of men.

"Some teachers wonder why my eldest daughter (9 years old) acts like an adult in her own world.

"When my husband was beating me, she would try to gather the kids together and hide in a corner. Now when they have to do group things in school, she gets scared. They isolate themselves from other people and kids," Sarah said.

Their father had forced them to throw away all the toys they got at Christmas and Easter because he said they didn't deserve anything, she said. Now they ask Sarah, "'Do we have to throw away our gifts this year -- can we keep one?' It's kinda sad," she said. Her children could really use some clothes and a television.

"Now that we're in a safe place, this year is going to be one good Christmas," Sarah said.

Other people who could use a helping hand among the hundreds of people in touch with the Clearinghouse are:

>> "Benjamin" and his wife need a wheelchair for their son, 11, who has cerebral palsy and is "totally dependent." He and his wife manage to work and care for him without much help. But the family could use a washing machine, mattress, bed sheets and clothing, Benjamin said.

>> "Anne," 30, has six children under 8 years old, including a 3-year-old boy with medical problems. Her husband has been unable to get back into the United States after going to Samoa for his mother's funeral several months ago. Anne broke down and cried when speaking about the stress she is under. She is requesting an air conditioner to keep her special-needs son comfortable and his health problems manageable.

>> "Nancy" is working toward a degree in hospitality tourism at Heald College to get a job in the field. She has been out of school for 30 years and needs a computer to do her homework. She is the only one in the class who uses a typewriter.

Nancy has been raising her grandchildren, adopting one of them, because their parents were unable to care for them while in prison or rehabilitating from drug problems.

"I knew I couldn't fall down. I prayed. I have faith that the man upstairs would pull me through" she said.

How you can help

Map The Honolulu Star-Bulletin's annual Good Neighbor Fund is now collecting donations for the Community Clearinghouse during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.

Donations can be dropped off at the Clearinghouse warehouse at 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, with entrance via Puuhale Place. If donors prefer to deliver goods directly to clients because of size and bulk, or if items need to be picked up, make arrangements through Helping Hands Hawaii, which administers the Clearinghouse. The number is 536-7234.

Checks should be made out to the Star-Bulletin Good Neighbor Fund, c/o Helping Hands Hawaii, P.O. Box 19063, Honolulu, HI 96817.

What's most needed: washing machines, dryers, refrigerators, beds, stoves, kitchenware and baby clothes.

Star-Bulletin staff

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2001 Honolulu Star-Bulletin