United Way goal smashed

It turned out to be wasted worry on the part of Scott Giarman.

The executive director of Kauai United Way fretted when Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita slammed the Mainland the same year the most ambitious goal in Kauai United Way history was established, he said.

“I was worried,” he said. “I was concerned because of Katrina,” and a lot of money was going out of the state. “Our concern was that people would forget about our local people.”

The fact that the 2005 campaign got off to a slow start added to his worries.

It turns out he didn’t need to worry. Kauaians came through big-time, shattering the goal of $555,555 and donating $564,000 to help those helped by 24 social-service agencies.

“We told people it was good to give to help those displaced by the hurricane, if they could, but that it was vital that we be sure to take care of our own community first,” said Giarman.

“We know a lot of Kaua’i money went to help with Katrina,” said Tommy Contrades, 2005 campaign co-chair.

“Kaua’i people have proven to be the most generous in the world. But this shows that Kaua’i is determined to take care of Kaua’i,” said Contrades.

Around 10 percent of the goal was raised on one night, during a $500-a-person, gourmet dinner at Iliahi, a former Lihue Plantation manager’s estate tucked away mauka of Lihu’e.

Some $50,000 was raised that night, and not just by those in attendance, Giarman said, still somewhat in disbelief of the success of the firsttime event, Hidden Treasures, put together by former Mayor Maryanne Kusaka and Michele Hughes.

Those who weren’t able to attend offered to pick up the tabs for flowers and wine, and others who also were otherwise occupied still made donations to the cause, Giarman explained.

The majority of the campaign funds, though, come from small donors, even those who give as little as $1 or $2 a paycheck through payroll deduction, he continued.

Tens of thousands of people giving $1 or $2 a paycheck quickly “adds up to make a big difference,” said Giarman, adding that all money raised on Kaua’i stays on Kaua’i.

Only a small percentage of contributions are in excess of $1,000, “just a handful of people,” he said.

Before 2005, the last time the Kauai United Way goal was surpassed was in 1997, when the goal of $500,000 was eclipsed. After that, the goal was pushed to $550,000, and slowly but surely successive annual campaigns have approached that goal.

The 2005 total reaffirms in Giarman’s mind the continued notion of “Kaua’i people coming together to help Kaua’i people.”

Mike Kano of Hanama’ulu, the other 2005 campaign co-chair, expressed his appreciation to donors large and small, and talked about the significance of the repeated number that he came up with for the 2005 goal, which coincides with a story about the first time he was exposed to giving and sharing without limitations.

After he finished electronics school, something he got into to avoid being drafted in the early 1960s, he joined the U.S. Army in 1967, and while stationed on the Mainland was at a base where meningitis was running rampant.

Soldiers were confined to quarters, making money but having no way to get out and spend it, when their superior officer came into the barracks to give his troops a pep talk, and tell them about the Army Auxiliary Association, a support mechanism for family members of soldiers.

The all-Hawai’i platoon gave $500, the best on the base, and then $555 on the second go-around.

“All of us have significance in numbers in our lives,” and the chance to establish the 2005 goal of $555,555 came about for Kano last year. The first three fives represents the amount of money raised by his platoon, and the second three fives are a combination of the end year numbers when he was Kauai United Way campaign co-chair (1995 and 2005).

“5-5-5 stuck with me for a long time,” said Kano, adding that it was the small donors who helped push the Kauai United Way 2005 contributions past the goal.

“That’s why I keep involved,” Kano said. “I’m proud to be part of that,” said Kano, adding that he is just one man.

But this one man had some strong words for those who would grumble, but do nothing else, about some problems on the island.

There is plenty of talk about problems on the island, he said. “If you just talk, guess what, you’re part of the problem,” said Kano.

“If you get involved, you’re part of the solution.

“We asked the community to ‘Step it Up, Kauai!’ and the people definitely responded,” said Kano, noting that the 2005 campaign results are up by more than 7 percent compared to the 2004 results.

Kauai United Way is an independent, volunteer-driven, nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to serving members of the island community since 1943.

Island social-service needs are re-evaluated annually, and funding directed to where it will do the most good to meet on-going and emerging needs, Giarman explained.

For more information, or to make a contribution to the 2006 annual campaign, call 245-2043.

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