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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 10 a.m., Monday, December 31, 2001

Hawaii charity adapts to post-Sept. 11 climate

By B.J. Reyes
Associated Press

As he looks toward 2002, Aloha United Way president Irving Lauber admits he doesn't exactly know what challenges are ahead for his and other charities in this post-Sept. 11 climate.

But after dealing with a "roller coaster" fund drive in 2001, Lauber said he is at least prepared for anything that may or may not come his way.

"Everything is a character-building opportunity," Lauber said Friday.

"I think you learn from your experiences," he said. The year was "an opportunity to demonstrate that we're flexible, that we can respond quickly to changes in the world and that we have the wherewithal to do it."

United Way chapters in Hawai'i support more than 150 service agencies in the state, including the Hawaii Foodbank Inc., the Salvation Army, the Boys and Girls Club, Child and Family Services and Catholic Charities.

Like many charitable organizations across the country, United Way in Hawai'i felt the impact of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks almost immediately. Potential donors coping with tough economic times became more conservative, and more selective, with their charity dollars.

Across the state, as the struggling tourism-based economy suffered more and more layoffs and business closures, United Way chapters saw their once-promising 2001 fund drives start to crumble.

The fund drives typically run from late summer through the fall. Although exact numbers were not available at year's end, United Way chapter presidents expect to be below their fund-raising targets for 2001.

One exception was Aloha United Way on O'ahu, the state's largest chapter.

Lauber said the organization definitely will finish above its projected goal of $13.6 million, thanks largely to an emergency extension of the campaign after Sept. 11.

The drive originally was scheduled to run from Aug. 30 to Oct. 12, but after projecting a $1.7 million shortfall, officials on Oct. 16 announced an extension until Nov. 30.

"We let people know what the situation was and let everyone know how people would be affected," Lauber said. "People and organizations literally stepped up to the plate."

In the final weeks of the campaign, Lauber said, corporations increased their pledge amounts, more individuals gave, and private organizations also donated. One notable donation was $1 million from the Hartley Foundation, a private organization established by Michael Hartley, founder and former chairman of Cheap Tickets Inc.

In November, First Hawaiian Bank and its employees gave $1 million to Hawai'i's five United Way chapters, and the state's largest dental insurer, Hawaii Dental Service, gave $100,000 to the five campaigns.

Because of increased needs for such things as emergency housing, utility and rental assistance due to massive layoffs, officials said more funds are needed this year.

Although Aloha United Way was the only chapter expected to break its fund-raising target, chapter presidents on other islands were optimistic they could come close to their goals.

Helen Hemmes, president of the Hawaii Island United Way, said the fund drive is only at about 73 percent of its $1.3 million target.

"We're still optimistic, but it's been a very, very challenging year," Hemmes said, adding that one traditional major corporate donation has not yet been pledged. She did not identify the donor.

One traditional source of funds outside O'ahu that has dried up this year has been from hotels and their employees, chapter presidents said. As the number of Hawai'i tourists has dropped, many hotels have laid off workers and kept a closer eye on the bottom line.

"The hotels are probably some of our biggest employers on the island, so when hotels lay off staff it hits us pretty strongly," said Judy Arrigo, president of Kauai United Way.

Arrigo said she expects to reach about $500,000 of the organization's $550,000 goal, "which is better than we thought after Sept. 11 and all of the layoffs we've had on the island."

Although the Maui United Way did not set a target number, chapter president Kendra McKenna said this year's campaign also appeared to be doing better than expected, given the economic climate.

"The question mark for us continues to be the hotels, because a lot of people have been laid off," McKenna said. "When people are laid off they can't pledge, nor should they pledge.

"It's too early for us to say exactly how it's going to look in the end."

On Moloka'i, Friendly Isle United Way President Glenn Izawa said the target goal has been set at $50,000 for the past several years, and only two or three times has it been achieved.

"We haven't had big hopes for the campaign (in the past), and September 11th was a concern," Izawa said. "I think what we're finding is the people who have supported the United Way continue to support the United Way."