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 Maui County’s public schools. “Our mission is to improve the educational experience for all of Maui County 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 because no child should be embarrassed because their parents can’t afford to get everything they are asked to bring to the classroom.”
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 last month, it added another beneficiary to its roster: Ka Hale A Ke Ola Homeless Resource Centers (KHAKO). It may not be a school in the conventional sense, but KHAKO shelters students in different grade levels at its Wailuku and Lahaina facilities.
“The last thing they should worry about is going to school without the basics,” Sorenson said. “These children already have to adjust to a new home and maybe even a new school, so it just seemed logical that by designating KHAKO as a ‘school,’ it would help alleviate stress for the parents and the students.”
As part of a community service project in May, Sorenson and her fellow Wishing Well volunteers rounded up items—everything from coloring books to sidewalk chalk to Frisbees—for children staying at KHAKO’s two facilities. With the start of the 2020-21 academic year right around the corner, Sorenson is now working with KHAKO Children Services Coordinator Misty Bannister to collect school supplies so these kids will have the tools they need to succeed in the classroom.
“Receiving help with school supplies from the Wishing Well program gives our shelter keiki the much-needed confidence to attend school without facing shame of not having supplies, especially on the first day of school or if they are a new student in class,” Bannister said. “It also provides comfort and peace of mind to the parents who are surviving with little or no income while in shelter. Mahalo Wishing Well for giving our shelter keiki the opportunity to be excited about going to school knowing they have the supplies they need. We are all so grateful for your generosity.”
Sorenson isn’t entirely sure what the fall semester will look like due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One thing she’s certain of, though, is that schools’ wish lists will be longer than usual. “I anticipate that this school year we will have more requests for assistance from both the teachers and the students since we started in 2007,” she said.
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, Sorenson says donations are more important than ever. Whether it’s cash, school supplies or office equipment, every little bit helps. And, she said, “Although school is going to start a month later than usual, sales of school supplies will be at their normal time, so all monetary donations or actual supplies would be spread out for all of our public schools and KHAKO.”
Even though KHAKO is now part of the Wishing Well program, Sorenson encourages donors who already contribute school supplies to KHAKO to continue to do so. “No school, church or nonprofit will ever have too many school supplies in a ‘normal’ economy,” she said. “As of March, we jumped out of ‘normal,’ so the more any of us can do for our children, the easier it will be for everyone to adjust.”
Want to make a difference for Maui County’s students? In addition to standard items like pencils and paper, schools also need things you might not normally think of, like area rugs, easy chairs, gardening tools and rubber slippers. 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 – June 15, 2020