Strengthening Hawaii's Communities

Strengthening Hawaii's Communities
Kūkiʻo Community Fund

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Kukio Community Fund

Kukio Fund  

The Kūki‘o Community Fund of the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation was established in 2001 as a way for Kūki‘o members to connect with the surrounding Hawaiʻi Island community through meaningful charitable giving opportunities.

With assistance from HCF, the Kūki‘o Community Fund finds the best organizations and schools increasing youth success on Hawaiʻi Island and supports their critical work. By supporting education and youth development, the Kūki‘o Community Fund is increasing the success of local youth in school, work, and life.

The fund focuses on the young people of Hawaiʻi Island because their success has a ripple effect on the entire community. A recent survey revealed that most of the schools receiving grants through the fund are attended by Kūki‘o employees’ children. By nurturing the ethos of the whole island, the fund aims to make it a better place for our neighbors and employees to live and thrive.


2020 Kukio Community Fund Information Sheet

View the 2020 Report to Members

$7 Million in Grants to Hawaiʻi Island Nonprofits and Schools


Over the past 20 years, the Hawaiʻi Island community has benefited from over $7 million in grants through the Kūki‘o Community Fund. Of the 25+ schools on the island receiving grant support, most are attended by Kūki‘o employee families. Many of the nonprofit grantees offer educational and social enrichment that expands what students learn in schools. Often, these dynamic programs are led by collaborations between schools, teachers, community volunteers, and local nonprofits.



Akamai Workforce Initiative - Internship Program
Chiefess Kapiolani Elementary School – Journey Through Time: 100 Years Past and Present
Friends of Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge – Teaching Change
Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Kīlauea Bioblitz
Friends of the Future – Earl's Garage
Girl Scouts of Hawaii – Girl Scouts Hawaii Program & STEM Fest
Hawai‘i Institute of Pacific Agriculture – School to Farm STEM Field Trips
Hawaii Outdoors Institute – Hawaii Outdoors Institute Summit to Sea Environmental Science Course
Hawaii Pacific University – eDNA Citizen Science Program at Kua o ka La New Century PCS in Hilo, Milolii, and Puna
Hawai‘i Science and Technology Museum – SpartanWORKS
Hilo Medical Center Foundation – Create and Navigate Opportunities in Education (CANOE) STEM Program
Honokaa Complex STEM Partnership
Honokaa Complex Innovation Lab
Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii – MANU Imiloa
Kahua Pa‘a Mua Inc. – Understanding Microbial Importance in Soils (UMIS)
Kalanihale – STEMM ALOHA in South Kona Hawaii
Kanu o ka Aina Learning Ohana - Mālamapōki‘i Outdoor STEM Learning Laboratory
Ke Kula 'o Nawahiokalaniopuu – Ko Kula Kai
Kea‘au Elementary School – Robotics Inspire
Kea‘au High School – Cougar Tech Robotics VEX, Service Learning, Outreach, and Microrobotics Support
Kealakehe High School – Building Sustainable STEM Pathways in West Hawaii
Keaukaha One Youth Development – RISE 21st Century After School Program
Māla‘ai - The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School – Development of STEM Programming in Learning Gardens
Marine Mammal Center – Na Kokua o ke Kai: Advancing Middle-School Marine Science and Ocean Conservation
Success Factory – The Success Factory, building student skill and confidence to thrive in STEM careers
The Kohala Center – STEM in the Natural World: Cultural and Scientific Pathways to the Careers of Tomorrow
University of Hawaii SOEST – THINK Big Island VEX Robotics Leagues
University of Hawai‘i Foundation – Hawaii Community College Summer STEM Academy Scholarships
UH-Hilo College of Continuing Education and Community Service and Krause Center for Innovation at Foothills Community College – Mini-MERIT and MADE Programs For Educators
Waiakea High School – Waiakea Robotics
Waiakea Intermediate School – B-Cubed: Building Better Bots - Think Outside of the Box
Waimea Country School – WCS Coding & Programming Initiative
Waimea Elementary School – 1 to 1 Student Computer Program
Zoological Society of San Diego – ‘Alala Reintroduction Community Inquiry Program

Learn more about the STEM Learning Partnership.


After-School All-Stars Hawai‘i
Aloha Performing Arts Company
Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii, Inc.
Big Island Mediation, Inc.
Boys To Men Mentoring Network, Inc.
Center for Tomorrow's Leaders
Family Support Services of West Hawaii
Friends of the Children of West Hawaii, Inc.
Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i
Hawai‘i Forest Institute
Ho'ola Na Pua
Kahilu Theatre Foundation
Kealakehe High School Grad
Kona Pacific Public Charter School
Malaai - The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School
Nalukai Foundation
North Kohala Community Resource Center
Parker School



What We Do and How We Work


“The Kūki‘o Community Fund grew out of a shared belief in the value of partnership and a common desire to connect with and support our local community. We believe in working together to really make a difference rather than just going it alone.” — Grant Heidrich

Kūki‘o residents and local community leaders volunteer their wisdom, time and funds to lead the growth and oversee the grants of our fund. The committee is led and facilitated by Hawaiʻi Community Foundation staff members who provide a local, professionally managed, and cost-effective mechanism for the fund’s grantmaking and operations.

Advisory Committee Members
Benjy Garfinkle (co-chair)
Caroline Landry (co-chair)
Wally Lau
Nancy Mueller
Gib Myers
Leann Sander
Hannah Springer

Past Members
Samuel Ainslie
Carl Carlson
Sally Hartman
Grant Heidrich
David Johnston
BJ Kobayashi
Jim Lally
Andrea McTamaney
Robert Punihaole*
Elle Stephens
Danielle White
Ross Wilson, Jr.
Dawn Zierk

“By establishing the Kūki‘o Community Fund as part of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, we gained access to quality opportunities on Hawai‘i Island and optimized our chance to do the most good.” — Carl Carlson

“The value of giving goes so much farther in Hawai‘i and the impact is especially felt here on Hawai‘i Island.” — Dawn Zierk

In 2020 nearly $850,000 was raised and distributed thanks to contributions from Kūki‘o members.




Innovation and Creativity: STEAM Learning on Hawaiʻi Island

An incredible range of educational programs are blossoming across Hawaiʻi Island, stemming from remarkable partnerships grounded in a common goal – helping our students discover the possibilities of innovation, creativity and technology. What started in November 2014 with a $200,000 annual sponsorship from the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) THINK Fund has been transformed into the Career Connected Learning Partnership, distributing over $6 million to Hawaiʻi Island since it began. In 2020, 10 donors, including Kūki‘o Community Fund, continued to support this program, enabling unique education opportunities across Hawaiʻi Island.

Programs receiving support focus on key elements of interdisciplinary STEAM learning including:
Providing teachers with training and tools so they can encourage innovation and create inquiry-based, student-centered learning;
Local, place-based activities that teach STEAM through the lens of ‘āina (land) and nature; and Hands-on, team-driven projects that test ideas and develop real-life solutions.

Grantees reach and support over 12,000 Hawaiʻi Island youth and 900 teachers.




Ēlama Project at Pālamanui


With help from the Kūki‘o Community Fund, Ēlama Project was launched at the Hawai‘i Community College Pālamanui campus in 2015. The Ēlama Project assists students in attending and successfully completing their first year of college and beyond.

The Ēlama Project provides academic counseling, peer mentoring, college readiness workshops and assistance navigating daily transportation or childcare, in addition to 100% of tuition, books and fees. The program served 211 students since it began. An initial grant of $75,000 from the Kūki‘o Community Fund seeded the program and the committee continues to help raise the awareness and funds needed to grow the program. “With the extraordinary involvement of our members, we felt ready and excited to increase our commitment level by adding this program to our community investments and encouraging support,” Kūki‘o Community Fund co-chair Benjy Garfinkle says. “We can do this, and it will change lives right in our backyard.”

The program is part of a statewide 13th Year Initiative launched with support from Kūki‘o members Jim and Lynn Lally and based on research showing that, on average, students attending at least one year of college earn 30% more income, are 29% less likely to be unemployed, and live seven years longer. “Hawaiʻi’s community college leaders have developed this program driven by the belief that our state has a special obligation to provide educational access to everyone. Just look at the statistics, we can’t afford not to,” says Jim Lally. “We’re delighted that the Kūki‘o Community Fund is generously supporting the new Pālamanui campus in this effort.”

When it comes to higher education, West Hawaiʻi is one of the most underserved areas in the state. Non-degree jobs make up 47% of the Hawaiʻi Island workforce, but those positions do not provide enough income for economic self-sufficiency. By 2018, 65% of Hawaiʻi’s jobs will require a post-secondary education, but only 40% of Hawaiʻi Island students are currently enrolled in college.

The Hawaiʻi Community College at Pālamanui campus offers a state-of-the-art learning environment and greater access to higher education in West Hawaiʻi. The campus was made possible through considerable leadership and funding support from Charles Schwab, the Hunt Brothers, Jim and Lynn Lally, and many other motivated community members like Carl Carlson and Ross Wilson.

The Kūki‘o Community Fund focuses on the young people of Hawaiʻi Island because their success has a ripple effect on the entire community. By supporting education and youth development, we are increasing the success of local youth in school, in work, and in life. The Hawaiʻi Island community has benefited from over $7 million in grants through our Kūki‘o Community Fund. Much of this funding has been concentrated in two high-impact youth program areas – Ēlama Project at Palamanui and STEM Learning (science, technology, engineering, and math).

“A huge thanks to everyone who contributes and gets involved! Together, we are making a difference,” Past Chair of Kūki‘o Community Fund Dawn Zierk says. “The Ēlama Project will offer students a strong foundation for a new life, and helps to offer their families a better, and more productive future.”



Kūki‘o Employee Scholarships

The Kūki‘o Community Fund believes that young people deserve the opportunity to succeed and began offering scholarships to further the education of college-bound Kūki‘o employees and their dependents in the 2017-18 academic year. We see this as an investment in the future — for scholarship recipients and the local community.

Apply Online:

The scholarship application opens annually in November. Applications are completed online through Hawaiʻi Community Foundation at You MUST indicate that you are an employee/employee dependent of Kūki‘o in the Affiliation Questions section of the application to be considered for the Kūki‘o Employee Scholarship. The Hawai‘i Community Foundation has over $7 million available for scholarships from more than 280 scholarship funds that you will be considered for with the one online application. You will be asked to submit a personal statement, Student Aid Report, and grade transcript.

More information here


Must be a current Kūki‘o employee and receiving benefits for at least a one-year period, or dependent child of an employee as noted.
Must be taking a minimum of 6 credit hours.

Administration and Selection:

Hawaiʻi Community Foundation has extensive experience in scholarship administration and will manage all aspects of the Kūki‘o employee scholarship. This includes processing and reviewing applications, notifying students and colleges, handling award distribution and more. Applicants will also have access to more than 200 other scholarship funds through HCF’s single online application and may be considered for additional scholarship monies. Applications are screened and sorted for eligibility with those funds whose criteria match the candidate. The number of awards and award amounts may vary depending on the number and needs of applicants. Students are notified of their award status between April and July. Scholarships are paid directly to the school the student attends, usually in two payments, one for fall semester and one for spring semester.