Next week, thousands of Maui County students will begin the 2020-21 academic year—and it goes without saying that this school year will be 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 Wishing Well program contributes school supplies, services and cash donations to public schools countywide. “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. “Making sure students have basic school supplies is of utmost importance.”

The program’s reach isn’t confined to the island of Maui; it covers every public school in Maui County and serves approximately 20,000 students on Maui, Molokai and Lanai. And in June, it added another beneficiary to its roster: Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers (KHAKO), which shelters students in different grade levels at its Wailuku and Lahaina facilities.

Volunteer coordinators are assigned to each school. They include Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) members Traci Bean, Michelle Bosque, Linda Briske, Michele Crozier, Kim Delmore, Susan DeLoria, Penni Egger, Gloria Ezera, Mary Fabbio, Jill Kaiser, Paula Kobayashi, Jeannie Kong-Evarts, Melissa Montgomery, Kris Musto, Darryl and Jane Ng, Suni Novotny, Barb Potts, Anna Revilla, Sharon Robinson, Melissa Salvador, Sarah Sorenson and Sharon Viger. Throughout the year, the coordinators and other volunteers collect and distribute “wish list” items, everything from pencils to playground balls to scientific calculators to rubber slippers. Many parents are unable to provide the basic items their children need in the classroom, so rounding up and distributing these supplies is a game-changer for students, parents, teachers and school administrators.

And this year, the wish lists will be longer than usual.

In addition to the schools’ requests, Sorenson has received calls from parents and grandparents asking for assistance. “With so many in the community hurting and barely scraping by, we need donations more than ever,” she said. And given the circumstances, Sorenson says a larger quantity of donations is needed. “A big issue is that students can no longer share anything for obvious reasons,” she explained.

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. Whether it’s cash, school supplies or computer equipment, every little bit helps. “Contributions will allow us to continue to assist our Maui County public school teachers and students year-round,” she said. “As my favorite author, Dr. Seuss, once said, ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not.’ Caring about others can make a difference to so many.”

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 – July 27, 2020

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