Local donors hope for matching funds from foundations

WAILUA — Dr. John Lydgate and Kilauea businessman Craig H. Maas wanted to make the Circles of Life organization a success when they joined the Kaua‘i organization this spring.

The men felt the Lihu‘e-based, nonprofit group that offered programs in arts, health and cultural education to Kaua‘i youths and adults could make the island a better place.

On Monday, they took a step forward to ensure the future of the organization. They collectively dug into their wallets and donated $10,000 of their own money.

The money will act as seed funds that may encourage foundations, companies, organizations and individuals to make contributions to the project, they said.

During a brief ceremony on Monday, the two men symbolically made their contributions to Michelle St. Romain-Wilson, executive director of the organization, and Jean Marie McEntee, president of the group.

Scores of programs exist on Kaua‘i that help youths, but the Circles project, with its emphasis on arts and music, is unique, said Maas, who joined Lydgate as an advisory council member to Circles this spring.

The organization was started by St. Romain-Wilson and a founding board of directors in 1999.

Romain-Wilson, who holds a master’s degree, has worked for more than 15 years with children, teens, and families. She has experience in program administration, curriculum development, teaching, grant-writing, fund-raising, and workshop facilitation.

“She will bring arts and crafts to people who don’t usually have access to them,” Maas said. “She generally makes people feel good about themselves. It’s terrific.”

Maas said he hopes the financial contribution will spur foundations and other organizations to provide grant funds to keep the program going.

Maas said “Kaua‘i needs help, and private funds (for the program) are important.

“Foundations that give grants are looking to see if people are willing to make private donations,” Maas said. “Once they see it, they will help.”

Lydgate said “this (the financial contribution) will be the spark plug that will make it happen, and help us be self-sustaining.”

Maas, owner of Maas Financial, a Kilauea-based financing and investment firm, said life has been good to him, and he wanted to “give to help Kaua‘i.”

The ceremony was held at Lydgate Park because it will be site of future Circles of Life programs and activities, McEntee said.

Programs and activities connected with the group will be conducted for the first time at Lydgate Park and Kamalani Playground on Saturday, Nov. 15, McEntee said. Similar programs and activities by the group will be staged at the park in the future, McEntee said.

The group plans to forge partnerships with other organizations on Kaua‘i that help youths and young adults stay away from drugs and crime and pursue productive lives, McEntee said.

“We are going to do things with Nana’s House in Waimea, the Boys and Girls Clubs, and community centers,” McEntee said.

She said Circles offers services for fees as a way to continue to provide services to the community.

Circles of Life, which became a nonprofit organization in 2000, supports holistic health and the development of children, families, and adults on a global level through programs which “celebrate the spirit and nurture creative expression,” according to the organization’s Web site.

The organization designs and offers programs based on holistic, multi-cultural, and creative principles.

The organization is committed to respecting diversity and honoring the dignity of people; practicing kindness, generosity and compassion; and playing creatively and acting responsibly in reaching goals, according to the site.

The activities of Circles are overseen by a five-member board.

Its members include:

  • McEntee, president, has been an educator for adults and youth for over 25 years;
  • Elaine Valois, vice president, has been professor emerita at the University of Toledo in Ohio for over 20 years;
  • Sharon Gonsalves, director of holistic health programs, has many years of experience in the business world as well as volunteer experience with nonprofit organizations;
  • Evern Williams, director of cultural education programs. He is a Native Hawaiian whose work experience includes over 30 years in the business and nonprofit world;
  • Paula Granroth, MSW, director of creative development programs. She is a worker with a child protective services division in Oakland, Ca., and previously worked for Child and Family Services and Ohana Conferencing on O‘ahu.

The advisory council includes:

  • Denise Byron, CPC, who offers her experience as an educator, facilitator, entrepreneur and personal and professional coach to Circles;
  • Puna Kalama Dawson, a Hawaiian practitioner and a promoter of solidifying families (‘ohana). She uses family values as the foundation of learning;
  • Charles Lehuakona Isaacs Jr., a Native Hawaiian, born and raised on O‘ahu, a graduate of Kamehameha Schools who has been a successful business owner;
  • Dr. Gail Grabowsky, who received her doctorate from Duke University in ecology and evolutionary biology and developed and directs Chaminade University of Honolulu’s environmental studies program;
  • Lydgate, a long-time resident of Kaua‘i whose family has been in Hawai‘i for many generations. He is a lecturer at Kaua‘i Community College and has been active with many civic and cultural organizations on Kaua‘i. He is a graduate of Punahou School and Yale University;
  • Maas, who has lived on Kaua‘i for the last six years, and founded several companies, including a real estate marketing firm and a mortgage banking company. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Pepperdine University, and helped develop a career and training program in the San Francisco Bay Area;
  • William Machado, a business consultant with over 20 years of management experience in the banking industry;
  • Yvonne Manipon, M.A., who has extensive experience in art education, art history, cultural theory, administration, and community-based programs.

    Members of a community outreach council include:

  • Betty Kaleohano, a lifetime resident of Hanapepe and a member of the Hanapepe Hawaiian Congregational Church who has been a participant in Circles workshops with her granddaughter;
  • Andrea Piscotta, who has lived on Kaua‘i for 12 years, is owner of the Hanapepe Cafe and participates in Circles workshops with her two daughters;
  • Nancy Zerner, who is the family and school outreach coordinator for Child and Family Services, PIRC Program, based at Nana’s House in Waimea.

    The staff of Circles includes Melinda Barnes, a project coordinator; Shannon Wylie, M.A., a project coordinator; and Gail Little, an administrative assistant.

For more information on Circles, please see the Web site, http://www.circlesoflight.org.

Staff Writer Lester Chang may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225), and mailto:lchang@pulitzer.net.

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