ADVERTISER CHRISTMAS FUND
Christmas Fund totals $177,638
By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer
Once again Hawai'i's generosity came through in big-hearted fashion in 2009 — yielding nearly $177,638 for The Advertiser Christmas Fund in the midst of one of the harshest economic climates in memory.
That total represents an increase of nearly $7,000 over the year before — money that will go to ease the burden for the largest number of families requesting help than in any previous year, according to Scott Morishige, program manager at Helping Hands Hawai'i, a Christmas Fund partner organization and nonprofit clearinghouse for service agencies throughout the state.
"Even though we saw more families than ever seeking help this year, we were able to make sure each family was ... matched with a donor," said Morishige.
"Despite the economic hardship, readers of The Honolulu Advertiser came through and showed their generosity. One thing that many people don't realize is that the money donated to The Advertiser Christmas Fund helps families in need throughout the year.
"With the tough economic situation facing our country, the help provided year-round from the fund is needed now more than ever."
A total of 1,184 individual, organization and business donors jumped in and did their part to turn around what could have been a lackluster charitable holiday season. Gifts ranged from a surprise $500 shopping spree from the Sports Authority on Ward Avenue to an 11th-hour $10,000 contribution from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation, plus an additional $3,000 from the pockets of the foundation's president and each of five trustees.
As they have for a decade, the entire student body at 'Aikahi Elementary School orchestrated an all-out volunteer drive to adopt five families and fulfill each family's Christmas "wish list." Other schools and churches participated with similar programs.
In the end, the Adopt-A-Family Christmas program matched up individual donors with a record 170-plus families.
The Kahokuloas of Waipahu, for example, asked for and received a real Christmas tree so the family — which doubled in size from five to 10 when Elea and Pulani Kahokuloa accepted four homeless foster siblings into their home and Elea gave birth to a new baby daughter — could celebrate its first real Christmas together. The family got its Christmas with all the trimmings, and then some.
Then there was Sabrina Rivera-Arrayan of Waipi'o — a 27-year-old single mother who had been destitute the previous Christmas. This year she wanted nothing more than a bookshelf and reading material for her 3-year-old daughter, Kailani. Instead, she received not one, but two hand-made solid-wood bookcases with children's books galore to fill all the shelves. Plus, Rivera-Arrayan got a job offer and hope for a better future for her child and herself.
While the Adopt-A-Family program brightened the holiday spirits of dozens of individual families on Christmas Day, The Advertiser Christmas Fund stories, along with additional stories televised by Advertiser news partner KGMB9, helped inspire donations that will keep on giving throughout the year.
"Thanks to the generosity of The Advertiser and its readers, we will be able to provide much-needed financial support to struggling families throughout the months to come," said Morishige.