By Christie Wilson
Neighbor Island Editor
United Way agencies on the Neighbor Islands report mixed results from their fund-raising campaigns as each responds to different economic conditions that determine how widely workers open their wallets for charity.
On Maui, the county least affected by the economic slump of the 90s, United Way support is ahead of last years pace. But contributions are falling short on Kauai and the Big Island.
On Oahu, the Aloha United Way, which supports 65 health and human services agencies on the island, announced it had reached its fund-raising campaign goal of $13.5 million. It was the first time in six years that AUW had met its goal.
Kauai United Ways executive director Scott Giarman said the success of fund drives generally is tied to the economy, but more important, United Way depends on companies with large payrolls.
On Kauai, though the economy has been improving with an uptick in tourism, many of the islands new businesses are retail shops and other small operations that are less likely to participate, he said.
Last year, the Kauai United Way, which helps 25 nonprofit groups, fell 7 percent short of its $550,000 goal, raising $487,000. Giarman thinks the agency will end up falling short of the same goal by about the same amount this year.
"We had a series of blows from sugar plantations closing," Giarman said. "With JMB/Amfac closing in November, that was worth several thousands of dollars."
At one time Kauai had eight sugar plantations, all generous contributors to United Way, he said. Now there is one, operated by Gay & Robinson.
Losing JMB/Amfac was particularly tough, Giarman said. The closing of the plantation not only cut contributions to United Way, the employee layoffs have increased demands on the islands food bank and other agencies that serve those in need, he said.
Meanwhile, the Big Island drive is running 3 percent behind last years.
As of last week, $1.01 million had been raised toward a goal of $1.33 million. At this time last year, $1.05 million had been raised toward the same goal.
Big Island United Way campaign Chairman Dwayne Miyashiro said he still hoped the goal would be met. The Hawaii County agency helps 34 health and human service groups.
Maui United Ways Bill Myers said the agency had "a decent shot" at its $1.5 million goal. More than half has been raised so far.
Last year MUW, which distributes money to 36 nonprofits, raised $1.2 million of its $1.4 million goal.
This year, the agency is sharing in the wealth of the islands robust hotel industry.
"The hotels have been fantastic this year. The Westin Maui doubled what they did last year," Myers said.
Myers said the MUW got a renewed commitment of support from labor unions representing hotel and sugar industry workers.
At the Westin in Kaanapali, employees are contributing $33,000 to United Way, compared with $15,000 last year. The percentage of employees contributing to MUW is up, as is the total amount of donations, even though Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. closed its Paia mill in September and eliminated 75 jobs, said Myers.
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