According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of deaths associated with COVID-19 were among adults over the age of 65, with the highest percentage of severe outcomes among individuals 85 years and older.

That’s why Erin Clapper, Ayaka Hamai and Tiffany Hyde of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Valley Isle signed up to volunteer for Our Kūpuna, a nonprofit organization that pairs local seniors with volunteers—called sponsors—who pick up and deliver groceries, medication and household supplies to their doorsteps so they can remain safe at home.

Due in large part to Hawaii’s geographic isolation, there are many elderly residents whose family members cannot be here to look out for them during this difficult and frightening time. With that in mind, Our Kūpuna, which serves residents on Maui, Oahu, Hawaii Island, Kauai and Molokai, connects seniors to sponsors who are free of COVID-19 symptoms and have not traveled outside of the state in the last 21 days (they must also undergo a criminal background check and send a photo of a valid driver’s license and proof of auto insurance). Sponsors check in with their respective seniors once a week over the phone and ask if they need any food, supplies or medication; they then shop for and deliver the items while following a strict safety protocol. Seniors cover the costs of their requested items, but the shopping and delivery service is free of charge.

In late March, Clapper was scrolling through her Instagram feed when she spotted a post about Our Kūpuna. When she learned the nonprofit was looking for volunteers, she seized the opportunity. “Sometimes there is a prompt deep down to do something ot to serve someone. That’s how I felt about this,” she said. “I moved back to Maui a couple of years ago to spend more time with my parents. I have been trying to grocery shop for them and thought: ‘I can do double shopping trips!”

After completing the application and screening process, Clapper was matched with a senior in her area. Since then, she’s made weekly trips to the grocery store and pharmacy on their behalf, delivering requested items—along with some peace of mind. “They are so grateful for the help,” she said. “To be a blessing to others is the best part.”

Like Clapper, Hamai says Our Kūpuna provided a perfect opportunity to give back amid the pandemic. “When this COVID-19 situation started, I was feeling a little useless…. I was trying to find a way to do something good for the community or for someone who needed help,” she said. “I like to volunteer. It teaches me something new about people, compassion and myself. Helping others reminds me that we are all in this together. No one has made it through life without someone’s help. I want to do something for someone else.”

So, when Clapper told her about Our Kūpuna, Hamai made a beeline for her computer and signed up to volunteer. She was paired with a senior and has been helping him stay safely at home ever since. Every week, she said, “I call and ask him what he needs for the next seven days—I go shopping on the following day and drop it off.”

Clapper and Hamai hope others will consider signing up to volunteer for Our Kūpuna. “If you are willing and able, especially in rural areas, it’s just one way to serve your community,” Clapper said. “You can be matched with someone in the area of your choosing.” And, Hamai said, “It is a great way to connect with people in your community.”

If there’s a senior in your neighborhood who could benefit from the service, Hamai and Clapper encourage you to tell them about Our Kūpuna. “They may not have anyone to go out for them or they may be scared to be out in public during this time,” Clapper said.

For more information or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.ourkupuna.com or call (808) 400-4506.

The Maui News – May 18, 2020

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