Former Waimea Dispensary continues legacy of healing

WAIMEA — The Rev. Dr. Olaf Hoekmann-Percival had run out of plywood and joked about using the signs if any more windows got broken at the former Waimea Dispensary, Friday.

Hoekmann-Percival, who lives “just up the road” from the former dispensary, was joined by Haku and kupuna Aletha Kaohi in officiating the groundbreaking ceremony of the building which will become the Easter Seals Hawai‘i Westside Center.

The building was built in 1927 as Waimea Plantation Hospital.

In 1952, the building was converted to a dispensary and remained in operation until the early 1990s, said Ellen Ching, the Kaua‘i director of Easter Seals Hawai‘i.

Following its closure, the building remained vacant and became a victim of time, neighbors like Hoekmann-Percival and others in the neighborhood taking it on themselves to board up windows as they became broken.

“I don’t have any more plywood,” Hoekmann-Percival said. “When work starts, I want my plywood back.”

The groundbreaking was attended by dignitaries including Majken Mechling, the CEO of Easter Seals Hawai‘i, Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr., who said the county supported Easter Seals Hawai‘i’s efforts through the Community Block Development Grant administered by its Housing Agency, Aupuni O Ni‘ihau and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

It marked the rebirth of the building which was formerly used to care for people as the Easter Seals Hawai‘i facility will be used as a center for vocational, transitional, social and health care needs for the Westside community, Ching said.

This will be done through a collaborative effort of the Easter Seals Hawai‘i, the Kaua‘i Economic Development Board and Aupuni O Ni‘ihau.

Estimated cost of the renovation is $2.3 million with funding coming from the U.S. Department of Commerce — Economic Development Administration, the County of Kaua‘i Housing Agency CDBG, the Carlozzi Charitable Foundation, the G.N. Wilcox Trust and the S.W. Wilcox Foundation. Work will be headed by Kaua‘i Builders.

Kaohi rekindled the days of the dispensary during her Hawaiian blessing in which she described the building as similar to a night-blooming cereus, the first blossom she saw following the destruction in the aftermath of Hurricane Iniki.

In the memory tour, Kaohi said the entrance to the building was originally on the roadside, being moved it where the original veranda was closed off and being accessible from the parking lot.

“You need to see the plans,” she said. “They’ll restore the veranda style of the plantation era. The building will be beautiful.”

The building is to be completed in August 2012.

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