When the Class of 2020 has its first reunion, there will no doubt be plenty to reminisce about—because it was a senior year like no other. The COVID-19 outbreak robbed these students of so many milestones: proms, class trips, awards banquets and graduation ceremonies.

And for the graduates staying at Ka Hale A Ke Ola (KHAKO) Homeless Resource Centers, navigating the latter part of their senior year amid a global pandemic was especially challenging.

That’s why the Asian Real Estate Association of America (AREAA) Aloha Chapter stepped in to help. Every year in May, AREAA holds a national day of community service called AREAA Builds the Community Day, known acronymically as ABCD. Past projects have run the gamut from renovating a fire-ravaged home to helping victims of domestic violence to hosting food and clothing drives. “We feel we are not just serving our community, but we are a part of our community,” explained Gina Duncan of Fine Island Properties, who is the AREAA Aloha Chapter co-founder and currently serves on its board of directors as an advisor. “It is in this spirit that our members help those in need on ABCD and throughout the year.”

This year’s ABCD event was a little different. For one thing, it wasn’t limited to a single day. It was a month-long effort that brought together AREAA Aloha Chapter members and non-members who teamed up to bring some pomp and circumstance to the high school graduates staying at KHAKO’s Wailuku and Lahaina facilities. Throughout the month of May, the volunteers collected and delivered lei, balloons, flowers, rubber duck floaties and gift cards to make graduation day extra special for the students. In addition, the volunteers—who represented the AREAA Aloha Chapter, Realtors Association of Maui (RAM), Kiwanis Club of Kahului, Hawaii Energy and RAM Community Foundation’s Wishing Well for Maui Students program—rounded up requested items for KHAKO’s youngest residents, including 1,000 protective face masks, diapers, games and activities, kids’ snacks and juice boxes.

“I really wanted our shelter graduates to be celebrated as much as possible,” said Misty Bannister, KHAKO’s Children Services Coordinator. “These amazing youth still managed to graduate high school, even while dealing with the many losses due to the effects of COVID-19. I shared a small request to Gina Duncan and a whole lot of love and care came rolling in—and it made all the difference. So many kind and generous friends in the community came together to share blessings with our graduates. We have so much gratitude for each and every person who helped make this happen.”

AREAA Aloha Chapter volunteers included RAM members Duncan, Bruce McDonald of Coldwell Banker Island Properties (who serves alongside Duncan on the AREAA Aloha Chapter board of directors), Melissa Salvador of Old Republic Title Company, Jill Kaiser of Hawaii Life Real Estate Brokers and Barb and Lee Potts of Keller Williams Realty Maui. Non-AREAA volunteers included RAM members Vanessa Joy Baldos of Coldwell Banker Island Properties, Laurie Lowson of Lowson & Associates, Lydia Pedro of Wailea Realty Corp. + Windermere Real Estate and Sarah Sorenson of Whale’s Tail Realty, the founder of RAM Community Foundation’s Wishing Well for Maui Students program. The RAM members were joined by several of their friends, family members, Karyn Kaina of Oahu-based Hawaii Mortgage Experts and Patrick Kilbride of the Kiwanis Club of Kahului.

Founded in 2003, AREAA is a nonprofit professional trade organization that promotes sustainable homeownership opportunities in Asian American and Pacific Islander communities nationwide. AREAA is the only trade association dedicated to representing the interests of the entire Asian real estate market nationwide. AREAA members are housing and real estate professionals from different cultural backgrounds; membership is open to anyone who supports the organization’s mission. The AREAA Aloha Chapter, which was founded in 2013, serves the entire state and has active members on Hawaii’s four major islands.

This isn’t the first time RAM members have stepped up to help KHAKO. Since 1989, they have planned, prepared and served meals to KHAKO residents on the first Wednesday of every month. And last year, RAM members raised nearly $30,000 to help the nonprofit install a new playground at its Wailuku facility.

KHAKO is a comprehensive resource center that prepares families and individuals for permanent housing while providing emergency shelter, counseling services, addiction recovery management and adult education and training, as well as a primary care medical clinic and childcare facilities. For more information about KHAKO or to inquire about volunteer or donor opportunities, visit www.khako.org or call 242-7600.

The Maui News – June 8, 2020

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