When Kelvin Taketa speaks, listen

What this country needs right now, said Kelvin Taketa, is to find a way to build a bridge, to provide hope, to do what is needed for the good of all.

Who, he wondered, could lead the way?

It was the very people sitting before him during the recent Kauai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“I thought about you because you’ve been here before,” Taketa said to about 75 people at the Aqua Kauai Beach Resort. “After Hurricane Iniki, this community rebuilt itself. You stood shoulder to shoulder and did it. You shared what you had with your neighbor, put aside small differences for bigger goals. You did it.”

Taketa then made a request.

“So I ask you, show us the way, blaze the trail,” he said. “Our foundation will be right beside you.”

On that note, the chief executive officer of the Hawaii Community Foundation stepped down from the stage, his presentation finished. It will be one of his last in that role.

Taketa, who spent many summers on Kauai growing up, announced last month he was leaving HCF, which he has led since 1998. Finding his replacement will be difficult. The Board of Governors has established a search committee and hired Inkinen & Associates to start the process to replace Taketa, whose resignation will become effective when the new CEO is in place. Meantime, Taketa has accepted the board’s invitation to stay on in a part-time role as senior fellow under the new CEO.

His guidance with HCF, the leading philanthropic institution in the state, has been nothing short of remarkable. Hawaii is blessed to have a man of his vision, passion and commitment who sees himself as fortunate to have a job that comes with great responsibility that affects thousands of lives.

“We have this enormous privilege of being the largest foundation in Hawaii,” Taketa said.

Since he came on board as HCF president and CEO, HCF more than tripled its annual distributions into the community on behalf of its clients and donors to over $47 million in 2016, along with increasing its assets from $230 million to $615 million. HCF is a steward of more than 800 funds, created by donors who desire to transform lives and improve communities.

With offices in every county, HCF is a collaborative partnership distributing grants, scholarships, and contracts. In addition, HCF develops strategies to tackle local challenges such as homelessness and fresh water supply, and strengthens leadership and performance within the nonprofit community.

Based on his performance guiding HCF, when Kelvin Taketa speaks, people listen. If they don’t, they should. Those at the chamber luncheon listened.

Stepping down from a post where his days were enriched by people was a difficult decision, he said, but a necessary one.

“I believe really strongly that people and plants are alike,” the Oahu man said. “They need to be repotted to grow.

“The best time is right now,” Taketa added.

HCF, he said, is prepared to do even greater things in the community. One is by helping donors make the impact they want to make through their giving.

“People come to us with their hard-earned money and they really dream of making a difference,” he said. “It’s our job to help them make that happen.”

“We are really lucky we get to partner with so many people that have a dream,” he continued. “Really, our job is to be an enabler, in the best sense of that word.”

HCF also transforms people’s generosity into lasting change by responding to opportunities.

Ten years ago, he noted, was the announcement of the first iPhone.

“We have to be nimble and smart enough to change with the times to honor the legacy of the people who entrust us with the money to be able to make the biggest difference we can possibly make,” he said.

The HCF, he said, is in ways, like Switzerland, a neutral party that brings individuals, businesses, nonprofits and communities together toward a common purpose of making life better for all — today and tomorrow.

If people work together, and listen, they can learn from each other. The result is innovation and harmony.

“It seems to me, now more than ever, we need that kind of civic leadership,” he said.

Hawaii is considered a generous state. Ninety percent of its households donate to charities, buy only 17 percent said they have made a provision for charities in their will. The national average is double that.

HCF wants to change those numbers.

“Begin the conversation in the community how people can leave in their will for the charities they care about,” he said. “How about a tip for the community in your will?”

If people left 10 percent of their assets to their community, it would have impact that would stretch decades down the road.

“I ask you all to join me and join so many others who are doing this, to support our community in the future,” he said.

Please, listen to him.


Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island.


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