Lifting spirits, creating smiles

LIHUE — The Garden Island/Zonta Club Christmas Fund is on day one.

And it’s off to a very merry beginning.

The Hale Uluwehi Kauai Fund announced that it will provide a dollar-for-dollar match for donations of $100 or greater.

“We’ll start the total of the match from us at $5,000, but we’ll consider adjusting that upward, if there’s great success,” said a press release.

Yoshiko “Dimples” Kano, longtime driving force behind the fund drive, was delighted to hear of the matching pledge.

“That’s a great way to start,” she said Thursday.

Every year, there’s talk that Kano will retire from the volunteer post she’s held for two decades. Her health has faltered a bit and she needs to rest, but the 92-year-old said she just enjoys being part of the community program that benefits hundreds of families on Kauai.

“I have to be a little more careful with my health,” she said.

One thing that keeps pulling her back is the joy it brings to keiki and kupuna.

She hears the stories of little boys and girls and the delight on their faces Christmas morning, when they open gifts they might not otherwise have received them if not for the TGI/Zonta Christmas Fund.

She spoke of one woman years ago who had lost her husband, had little, and was not looking forward to Christmas. Then, she received one of the TGI/Zonta Club Christmas Fund gift cards.

“It lifted her spirits,” Kano said. “There are people who still care. These are simple, every day people.”

And they are generous people.

Two years ago, the fund raised a record $32,000. Last year, it was in the $40,000 range, another record. And this year, Kano believes donations, especially with the pledge of Hale Uluwehi Kauai Fund to match dollars, could climb even higher.

Here’s how the program works:

Through Christmas Eve, The Garden Island will share daily, front page stories about families (we don’t use their real names but the circumstances described are real) facing challenges and who would appreciate a little help.

The Garden Island/Zonta Christmas Fund is an avenue for everyone to provide that assistance. Donations to the Christmas Fund will be distributed by Zonta Club members, who purchase gift certificates at local stores to make wishes come true.

Families apply for assistance through social service agencies, which in turn connect with the Zonta Club of Kauai.

Each donated dollar is accounted for and carefully recorded. Rest assured, the money is spent wisely.

There are no administrators collecting salaries. There are no hidden costs. The money goes directly to provide gift certificates to those who need them for gifts and groceries. The gift certificates are distributed in early December.

The Garden Island/Zonta Christmas Fund was established in the early 1980s when Jean Holmes was editor of TGI. Dimples says it has been rewarding to see so many families benefit through the generosity of the community.

“It’s brought a lot of happiness to families in need,” she said.

Kano is well known for her kind and generous spirit and sweet smile. At 92, when she should be taking it easy, she remains determined to do all she can for others.

She recalled one young man in years past who asked for help so he could buy a nice shirt and shoes for job interviews. He received one of the gift cards.

Kano later received a note scribbled on piece of paper from that man: “I bought me a shirt, I bought me a pair of pants, I bought a belt. I even bought shoes. And best of all, I found me a job.”

“That’s the kind of thing that touches you,” she said. “You don’t really fully understand unless you’re in a tight spot. He must have felt so good.”

And that, Kano added, is just one of the many stories she hears of those whose holidays were brighten by the TGI Zonta Club Christmas Fund. It’s why she can’t quit.

She encourages people to donate.

“Donate what you can from your heart,” she said. “Every little bit helps somebody who didn’t think they were going to be helped.”

Let’s do all we can to make it happen — to keep Dimples smiling and to share Christmas cheer across Kauai. If you hold a fundraiser for the Christmas Fund, let us know and we’ll spread the word. Anyone making a donation of $50 or more may have his or her picture presenting the check published in TGI.

Only monetary donations are accepted. Checks, payable to Zonta Club of Kauai Foundation, can be mailed to P.O. Box 3032, Lihue, HI., 96766. For further information, call Kano at 822-4517

The following are stories of just a few of the people who could use our help. While their names have been changed, the situations described are real.

w Larisa is a young, single mother of one child who is a year and a half old. She worries nearly all the time and suffers from traumatic experiences. Her child (son) is in need of diapers, wipes, clothes and toys. She states she would greatly appreciate any support as it would alleviate some stress in taking public transportation and carrying diaper and other needs form the store to home and utilize a large portion of her income.

w Luoise, an 84-year-old widow, has been struggling recently with some serious health issues. Normally, the holidays are her favorite time of the year but this year she could certainly use a little boost to lift her spirits.

w Akela is a soon to be two-year-old who has a history of hearing loss and who is currently wearing hearing aids to help her address the issue. Her family has often scheduled audiology appointments on Oahu and has sacrificed much time to monitor Akela’s condition. Her hearing loss condition can’t be corrected. Akela also had a surgical procedure related to her hearing loss condition completed within the last year on Oahu at Kapiolani Medical Center. Akela is very assertive and affectionate and would benefit from any time of gift or assistance than can be provided. Any type of educational toy that could help assist Akela toward improving her communication skills would be greatly appreciated.

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