2021 has finally arrived, bringing with it the hope of a better year to come.
As many of us kick-start our new year’s resolutions, thousands of students will start school—virtually or otherwise—this month. The 2020-21 academic year has been anything but typical: Apart from changing students’ learning environments, the COVID-19 pandemic has left many parents and teachers financially stressed. That’s where the Wishing Well…for Maui Students program is stepping in to help.
Wishing Well…for Maui Students, a program of the Realtors Association of Maui Community Foundation (RAMCF), a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has been making wishes come true for students, parents and teachers across Maui County for the past 13 years. Run by volunteer RAM members and fueled by the generosity of the community, the program covers every public school on Maui, Molokai and Lanai, along with Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers (KHAKO), a nonprofit that shelters students in different grade levels at its Wailuku and Lahaina facilities.
Throughout the year, volunteer coordinators collect and distribute “wish list” items to schools so students have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom. “Our mission is to improve the educational experience for all of Maui County’s public schools,” said Sarah Sorenson of Whale’s Tail Realty, who founded the program in 2007. “COVID-19 may have slowed us down and definitely made us make changes at all levels, but education continues… it’s just different now.”
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, the wish lists were longer than usual amid the dual public health and financial crises. In addition to teachers’ requests, Sorenson received calls from parents and grandparents asking for assistance. Given the unprecedented circumstances, she says a larger quantity of donations was needed in 2020.
Case in point: Starting in October, Wishing Well volunteers began rounding up requested items for Molokai Middle School. By the end of the year, they’d packed and sent 31 boxes to the Friendly Isle. Collectively, the boxes weighed in at a whopping 565 pounds. “The heaviest box was almost 32 pounds and the lightest was under five,” Sorenson said. It cost $650 to ship all of the boxes, which led Sorenson to create her own wish list item. “I would love to find companies or individuals who go back and forth to Molokai to deliver bags or boxes of supplies to help cut down on these costs,” she said. “That is one of my wishes for 2021.”
In December, Steve and Rosie Hogin of NextHome Pacific Properties donated several truckloads of office furniture to Waihee Elementary School, Kalama Intermediate School, Baldwin High School and Maui High School. The donations were divided among the schools, which received seven desks with three-drawer file cabinets attached, office chairs, two- and five-drawer lateral file cabinets and other pieces of office equipment.
Like the Hogins, Jenny Borge of Equity One Real Estate stepped up to help make students’ wishes come true. When she learned the Wishing Well program had run out of pencil boxes for the first time in its history, she purchased 48 boxes, along with an assortment of pencils, erasers and highlighters, which were placed inside the boxes and distributed to students at King Kamehameha III Elementary School and Makawao Elementary School.
In the past, Wishing Well volunteers held school supply drives at the entrance of the Kmart store in Kahului. But since the store closed in 2017, the program has relied largely on donations from residents, visitors and local businesses.
Want to make a difference for Maui County’s students? In addition to making a cash donation, you can purchase most wished-for items like disinfectant wipes, liquid sanitizer (large and small bottles), liquid soap (large and small bottles), paper towels, boxes of Kleenex, kids’ face masks, dry-erase markers (broad and fine point), erasers for dry-erase boards, pencils, pencil erasers, crayons, wide-ruled composition books, backpacks, and rubber slippers in varying sizes. For more information about the RAMCF Wishing Well…for Maui Students program or to make a donation, visit www.ILoveMauiSchools.com or call Sorenson at 283-3969.
The Maui News - January 11, 2021