Diana Basque, a volunteer, chats with someone who came to pick up a package of food at the Palolo facility.

Reaching Out Together

The “Hawaii Moving Forward” project
will help isle charities to be more efficient

By Mary Adamski

The rural church congregation has succeeded in finding housing for a few families living on the beach, but it never compares notes with the folks from a different denomination nearby who are doing the same thing.

art The temple's outreach to homebound elderly people was started a generation ago, and no one has the heart to pull the plug. But younger members want different outlets for their good will and energy, such as sharing their technical talents.

The food pantry volunteers know there are more hungry people lining up at the door each month, but the supply source of donations has remained static.

There are hundreds of religious groups and community organizations in Hawaii who offer help to the poor and the homeless. Some have found ways to network with each other, but mostly each just does its best to "light one candle."

There's help on the way for the helpers. A coalition of three local agencies is about to launch a "Compassion Capital" initiative intended to crank up the candlepower of hundreds of small, private providers.

What will grab the attention of the nonprofit groups is the fact that there is $600,000 per year to distribute, and they can get a piece of it. But the long-range goal of the "Hawaii Moving Forward" project is to build up the technical and administrative capabilities so each little effort functions more effectively.

March workshops on Oahu and the neighbor islands will be used to unveil the project which will, in effect, bring the Bush administration's faith-based initiative down to grass roots.

Hawaiian Islands Ministries, the Hawaii Community Foundation and the University of Hawaii Center on the Family are partners in the project. They have received one of the first 21 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grants, $300,000 per year for three years, which the foundation will match.

"We will shift to help the not-for-profits figure out how to be effective and to get healthy," said Robert Alm, chairman of the Hawaii Community Foundation. He described the project Tuesday night at a symposium on "Economic Disparity Among Us." About 100 people attended the event sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Religions for Peace and the Institute for Religion and Social Change at Central Union Church.

Alm said one-third of all money contributed by individuals and organizations in Hawaii each year goes to faith-based organizations. There is some opposition to the idea of government money going to religious groups, but he said "there are ways that we can work with folks whose agendas we don't share. We can agree on the 85 percent, and only on the 15 percent go our separate ways."

The project won't meddle with the missions of various groups. "We will focus on the practical side," said Hawaiian Islands Ministries Executive Director Mary Vinson. "Over the next three years, we hope to bring in experts to teach them how to do the business side of their programs. ... We will provide the expertise to train small nonprofit agencies in everything from grant writing to computerization, from personnel training to strategic planning. We can help them establish financial controls, deal with tax and legal traps. These are things that larger organizations have resources to do."

"Compassion Capital, Hawaii Moving Forward" is not just for faith-based groups, but community organizations as well, with the emphasis on social services for the homeless, for people making the transition from welfare to work and for families of incarcerated persons.

Compassion Capital Conference

Hawai'i Convention Center -- March 6, 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The free conference will present information to faith-based and community-based organizations that serve Hawaii's homeless and low-income communities and the families of incarcerated people. Grant funds, training workshops and technical assistance are available.

The conference is free, but registration is required by Feb. 26. Call Hawaiian Islands Ministries, 988-9777 or toll-free 877-998-9777. No registration required for neighbor island conferences:

>> Kauai: March 3, 1 p.m. State Office Building, Room 209.

>> Maui: March 5, 1 p.m. Maui Community College, Laulima 225.

>> Kona: March 10, 1 p.m. Kona Community Hospital.

>> Hilo: March 11, 1 p.m. Hawaii County Building Room 201.

>> Oahu: March 13, 1 p.m. Central Union Church.

Sylvia Yuen, director of the UH Center on the Family, said a key goal will be to help groups find partners. "For too long people have been doing parallel service. We can and should do more collaboration so there is less fragmentation in any of the fields. In the end we serve the same people and want the same outcome. It's really to build the capacity so they are all in a better position to serve vulnerable people.

"An example is feeding the homeless, which lots of groups want to do. Let's go talk to the folks already doing that. Let's collectively decide and integrate what we are doing rather than operating like individual towers."

Yuen said: "This is obviously not for those who are just starting off. There has to be some experience or some history of doing the work and getting to the point where they want to serve more people or provide more services. They might not be aware there is a need such as someone to teach basic nutrition or provide child care while they work with women. They could do that instead of a feeding program."

A second aspect of the new project will be to train future social services volunteers. Yuen said there will be funding of a Fellows program. "Individuals from selected organizations will work with us over the three years for grounding" in the personnel, administration, marketing, grant-writing and data-tracking functions to keep projects moving forward.

This program is not for everyone, said Christine van Bergeijk, Hawaii Community Foundation vice president for programs.

"The challenge will be that if they accept federal money, they will not be allowed to provide religious teaching; there cannot be any proselytizing. They are not allowed to restrict their services to people of a particular faith; they must be available regardless of faith. It is a new front for organizations interested in servicing the community, not necessarily interested in building their church."

"It is almost like there are parallel universes," van Bergeijk said, with faith-based projects operating unaware of similar social services from other community organizations. "We want this project to be a bridge between those two universes.

"When it comes to delivering social services, there has always been more need than there is ability to serve."

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