Olympic diver Greg Louganis once said: “Never underestimate your ability to make someone else’s life better–even if you never know it.”

When the Realtors Association of Maui (RAM) inducts its new slate of officers and directors at its 50th annual installation luncheon on Friday, Sept. 7, it will simultaneously improve children’s lives. Apart from raising funds for RAM’s Presidential Scholarship Fund, RAM will earmark proceeds from this year’s event to help Ka Hale A Ke Ola (KHAKO) Homeless Resource Centers purchase a new playground for its facility in Wailuku.

At present, there is no playground at the shelter, but it is sorely needed: In 2017 alone, KHAKO provided more than 12,600 hours of service to children on the property.

During a recent tour of the Wailuku facility, RAM’s president-elect Gina Duncan and RAM’s chief staff executive David Belew noted the absence of a playground and decided to take action.

Duncan said she hopes to raise $50,000 or more to help KHAKO purchase a new playground. “This playground is a small step in helping the displaced children of Maui maintain a stable way of life and bring them a little measure of happiness,” she said. “This one act is one of many that we can achieve by working together to better our community, share our aloha, raise awareness, and help with housing concerns.”

And housing concerns are top of mind for RAM, which chose “Aloha in Our Community…Housing for Everyone” as the theme to guide the organization forward through 2018-19. Additionally, “housing concerns” was recently added as an objective of the RAM Community Foundation. The Foundation was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2007, and since then, has provided academic scholarships to Maui County students and assisted public schools countywide through the Wishing Well…For Maui Students program.

The fundraiser for the KHAKO playground is the Foundation’s first housing concerns-related initiative—and it will have an immeasurable impact. “It’s been a dream to have a playground for our keiki at the Central shelter of Ka Hale A Ke Ola,” said KHAKO executive director Monique Yamashita. “The children that come to our shelter have experienced stress and trauma from being homeless, but a playground would help them to have joy and fun in their lives. A playground would also benefit the parents, who know the difficult times their children have faced and can witness them having fun.”

Thirty-two years ago, KHAKO opened the doors to its first facility in a renovated Catholic church on the edge of a cane field in Puunene. Today, it 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. The organization underwent a paradigm shift last year, redirecting its focus to breaking the cycle of homelessness by finding and maintaining permanent housing for its residents.

The process begins the moment a family or individual walks through the front door. They first meet with an in-house housing navigator who helps them craft a viable housing plan. Then they sit down with a housing specialist, who assists with the housing search and placement. Once a rental is secured, a housing retention specialist takes over and monitors the new living arrangement up to nine months to ensure everything goes smoothly.

KHAKO provides thousands of meals to its residents every year and volunteers are always needed to prep, cook and serve food at its Central and West Side facilities. KHAKO also seeks monetary donations and contributions of goods or services; Yamashita said immediate needs include a passenger van, walk-in freezer, sheets, blankets, towels, unused pillows, and small dining sets.

To learn more about KHAKO or to inquire about donor or volunteer opportunities, visit www.khako.org or call 242-7600.


By Sarah Ruppenthal
Published in The Maui News – September 1, 2018

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