For many, packing up and moving from one place to another can be an exhausting, headache-inducing experience. But there’s one upside: taking inventory of what you own and offloading the things you don’t need anymore.

That’s what Courtney Battise of First American Title did last month as she prepared to move her office from Kihei Plaza to its new location within the Maui Research and Technology Park. There were several items on the “pre-move purge” list, including four large L- and U-shaped desks, six office chairs and five filing cabinets.

And Battise knew exactly who to call: The Wishing Well… for Maui Students program, which swiftly coordinated the donation of First American Title’s office furniture to Iao Intermediate School in Wailuku. “I chose the Wishing Well because it is the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) cause,” she explained.

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. 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.

Each school has a volunteer Wishing Well coordinator (and in some cases, more than one). Melissa Salvador of Old Republic Title is a coordinator for Iao Intermediate School and helped facilitate the delivery of Battise’s donation to the campus on Thursday, July 30. As for the matter of getting the bulky office furniture from Kihei to Wailuku, RAM affiliate Alan Birnie of Smooth Moves Maui volunteered to help. He and his crew disassembled the larger items in Kihei, loaded everything into a moving truck and transported it to Wailuku. There, they unloaded and reassembled the donated furniture. “I always try to volunteer when RAM members, whether Realtors or affiliates, are in need of assistance for their charities or nonprofits,” Birnie said. “It’s sad to me knowing that the needs of some students, and schools as a whole, may lack in some areas. If there’s a way we can help, we welcome the opportunity.”

Donations like Battise’s really make a difference, said Sarah Sorenson of Whale’s Tail Realty, who founded the program in 2007. 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. And every little bit helps. “Most people who live on Maui don’t realize how old the majority of our schools are—50 to 100 years old,” Sorenson said. “With the additional costs involved this year to prepare each classroom for COVID-19 protection, there just isn’t any money left over for some of the basics that perhaps you never realized are in need for teachers or their classrooms.”

With that in mind, Battise encourages other to consider donating items—furniture or otherwise—to the Wishing Well program. “Our schools need the support of our community, so if you see an opportunity to assist, you won’t find a more grateful recipient than our schools,” she said.

Birnie agrees wholeheartedly. “If you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to step up,” he said. “The gift of giving is its own reward.”

Want to make a difference for Maui County’s students? In addition to making a cash donation, you can purchase a variety of wished-for items. “If you are downsizing or closing your place of business and you have office supplies and equipment or even furniture like bookcases, desks, refrigerators, white boards… the list of needs is endless,” Sorenson said. “If you’re not sure if the schools can use anything you may have, contact me.”

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 – August 17, 2020