Strengthening Hawaii's Communities

Strengthening Hawaii's Communities
The West Hawaii Fund

Header Logo Icon purple

Celebrating a 25-year legacy of partnerships, community, and charitable giving

It is hard to believe that a gift of $250 could help transform a community into a vibrant and thriving place for its residents to live, work, and play over 25 years later. Thanks to that initial investment, plus the foresight of a group of area residents, the West Hawaii Fund exists today. Not only does it provide a permanent resource to address the current and emerging needs of residents living on the west side of Hawaii Island, its legacy continues to inspire others to give back as well. “A kupuna (elder) once said, it is one thing to build a canoe, it’s another thing to maintain and sustain it,” says Wally Lau, managing director for the County of Hawaii and a former West Hawaii Fund Advisory Committee member. “This Fund is all about caring for West Hawaii.”

The Fund was established in 1990 by the West Hawaii Donors’ Group, consisting of members Gloria Blum, Virginia Isbell, Rebecca Transue, Allen Wilcox and Bill Wong. Grants benefit the residents of North and South Kohala, North and South Kona, and the ahupua‘a of Kahuku, which includes Hawaiian Ocean View Estates. The group set up the Fund as a component fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation, which allowed the founders to focus on grant making and securing additional gifts. “Instead of reinventing the wheel, we went to the Foundation,” recalls Wong. “They’ve been such great partners since the beginning.” By utilizing the Foundation’s professional services, overhead and governance costs are reduced, thereby maximizing gifts to and from the Fund. The Fund has since grown through contributions and planned gifts from donors in the community. It 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 arts and culture. To date, more than $1,417,000 has been distributed in grants. “The West Hawaii Fund plays a vital role in the community, especially in difficult times,” says Lydia Clements, director of Neighbor Islands. “Although increases in demand for services are always challenging to meet, we are able to be responsive to the changing needs of our community." Clements cites vital grants made in 2009 to safety net organizations dealing with food security and stability, accessibility to healthcare, and programs for youth.

“Changing lives? Absolutely,” says pediatric dentist, Dr. Ginelle Sakima-Roberts on the impact of a grant to the West Hawaii Community Health Center. “Because of the Fund, we can help kids to get proper dental care in really safe ways.” The Center purchased a digital panoramic x-ray machine that has significantly improved the quality of diagnosis and treatment of its young patients. A volunteer Advisory Committee, consisting of dedicated West Hawaii residents, works with the Foundation’s staff to match the Fund’s resources with area needs. Since the Fund’s formation, 45 community members have served on the committee. Rick Asbach, former publisher of the West Hawaii Today and longtime committee member, says “It’s a pleasure as a group to come together, review and decide on grants. This is a well-oiled, organized, very professional organization. You feel comfortable in participating and committing some of your money to the community.”

The West Hawaii Fund provides the convenient choice to donors to give to it directly or to set up a separate fund, but have the West Hawaii Fund’s Advisory Committee manage all or part of the grant making. The committee currently handles the grant recommendation responsibilities for seven additional funds: Oscar L. and Ernestine H. Armstrong Fund, Hartwell and Rebecca Carter Fund, Ann B. Frank Fund, Arthur Lawrence Mullaly Fund, Robert C. and Helen F. Nichols Fund, Stein Family Fund, and the Stanley and Renee Tomono Family Fund. The combined endowment of this ‘family of funds’ guided by the West Hawaii Fund Advisory Committee totals $3.7 million. At a recent event to mark the 20th anniversary of the West Hawaii Fund, Asbach shared with an audience of community leaders why he is also a donor to the Fund through a bequest. “One doesn’t know what’s going to happen with individual charities, and so it made more sense for somebody like me to give it towards a direction. In my case, I’m interested in youth. So the Fund is going to be able to deal with that for me, manage the money, and the Advisory Committee is going to make the choices as to how it is best served in the community. It gives you the peace of mind so you can put the wheels in motion and go on about your business and enjoy life.”

 

To contribute to the West Hawaii Fund, please contact Diane Chadwick.