Strengthening Hawaii's Communities

Strengthening Hawaii's Communities
East Hawaii Fund

Header Logo Icon purple

With the help of KTA Superstores, the estate of Frederick Yokoyama, and a committed group of residents, the East Hawaii Fund was established in 2010 to provide a stronger link between charitable donors and the specific needs of the east side of Hawaii Island. This regional fund, a component fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, continues to grow through contributions, bequests and planned gifts from businesses and individuals.

A volunteer advisory committee made up of trusted residents of East Hawaii, works with the Hawaii Community Foundation’s professional staff to match the Fund’s resources with community needs through grants. Committee members are Kumu Belcher, Elaine Johnson, James Kunimura, Audrey Takamine, Stacey Williams, and Ron Yokoyama.

“Giving is part of our culture,” said former committee member Fred Koehnen (deceased), who also created the F. Koehnen Ltd. Scholarship Fund. “If you have someone that has come on hard times or there is some sort of disaster, local people respond very well." People and businesses are supporting and growing this resource by both making gifts directly to the East Hawaii Fund, as well as by setting up a separate fund and having the East Hawaii Fund’s Advisory Committee manage all or part of the grant making. The Fund does not conduct annual fundraising, but instead relies on the generosity of people who want to benefit the region or a specific focus area within, such as education, health, human services, youth, or arts and culture. “The East Hawaii Fund started small and grew over time,” said Barry Taniguchi (deceased), former president and chief executive officer of KTA Super Stores, and K. Taniguchi, Ltd. “Similar to the early days of the West Hawaii Fund, it was a mechanism to encourage residents to participate in philanthropy and provide access to funding for smaller organizations that are doing good work.”

Often times, people want to give and help their community, but do not know where to begin. “The Fund allows them an easy way to combine, or pool their financial resources to make a significant impact,” said Taniguchi, who played a key role in creating the fund, and whose family business was instrumental in providing the initial financial support. He also served on the Hawaii Community Foundation’s Board of Governors. “The nice thing about the East Hawaii Fund is you don’t have to have a lot,” said former East Hawaii Fund Advisory Committee member and Board of Governor Roberta Chu. “You can give as little as a thousand dollars, or as much as millions of dollars—depending on what you can afford to give. For reasons of flexibility, it’s an all-in-one fund. If you give, you are not burdened by the administrative paperwork—that’s taken on by the Hawaii Community Foundation. That’s going to attract more dollars." The East Hawaii Fund Advisory Committee also makes recommendations for grants from the Frederick Yokoyama Fund, which was created in 2010. It was Yokoyama’s intent to give back to the community that he called home. Helping to make his dream a reality was Yokoyama’s sister, Leatrice, who worked closely with other community leaders to designate that his bequest would be used to benefit the East Hawaii Fund.

The Yokoyama Family’s gift is part of the endowment that will continue to give back over time to East Hawaii, in good times and bad. Not only does it provide a permanent resource to address the current and emerging needs of residents, its legacy continues to inspire others to give back as well. “Before he passed away, Fred was talking about doing something for the community,” said former East Hawaii Fund Advisory Committee member and attorney Alan Okamoto. If he were here to see what we have now with the East Hawaii Fund, he would be happy. That’s what he really wanted to do—to start the process.”