‘Our hopes are high’

PRINCEVILLE — With a focus on health, wellness, youth, open spaces and education, the Kauai North Shore Community Foundation has harnessed thousands of hours of volunteer effort and established itself as a philanthropic player on the North Shore.

Through the creation of three flagship events, it has raised about $750,000 since its inception, and reinvested those funds back into community organizations, schools and other causes. As an unstaffed, largely volunteer organization, KNSCF keeps costs low, which maximizes the impact of every dollar raised.

KNSCF’s Sixth annual Ohana Fit Fest will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Wai Koa Loop Trail at the Anaina Hou Community Park in Kilauea. About 500 participants and spectators are expected, said volunteer Fit Fest organizers and KNSCF board members Ken Rosenthal and Maylette Garces.

Over the years, funds from the Fit Fest have been distributed to help the Hanalei Canoe Club repair racing canoes after the April 2018 flood that devastated the North Shore, purchase emergency medical equipment for local schools, support community gardens, fund summer camp experiences for local keiki, and much more.

In all, $42,000 has been distributed from the Fit Fund. An additional $40,000 was raised to refurbish playgrounds at Prince Albert Park, Kilauea School, Kanuikapono Public Charter School and Anaina Hou Community Park.

The annual Strut Your Mutt canine “beauty pageant” raises funds for ongoing maintenance of the North Shore Community Dog Park on Kahiliholo Road, which opened in 2013.

The first of KNSCF’s community projects, the dog park, began with an anonymous contribution that paid for fencing to create a park with separate spaces for large and small dogs on two acres of Wai Koa land leased at $1 a year from the late Bill Porter and his wife, Joan.

Additional funds were raised to purchase building materials for two shelters, benches and shade trees. Construction help came from the North Shore Lions Club.

Since the dog park opened, KNSCF has raised over $174,000 to develop and maintain the facility. Memberships are available to dog owners to support ongoing maintenance, as the park receives no county funding and relies exclusively on community support to keep its gates open from dawn to dusk 365 days a year.

But KNSCF’s greatest impact has been felt in its educational initiatives, including enrichment and after-school programs and college scholarships.

Now in their third year, the programs help sixth-graders at Hanalei and Kilauea schools transition to middle school, offer study-skills assistance to seventh-graders and provide SAT preparation for college-bound high-schoolers. In addition, it has granted almost $30,000 in scholarships to University of Hawaii students and another $20,000 to educational enrichment programs.

Its most ambitious project to date, however, is the effort to build the Namahana Public Charter Middle and High School. A public middle school and high school have been a long-held dream of many North Shore residents — particularly those who live in Haena and Wainiha and whose children must sometimes take two buses and spend hours a day traveling to Kapaa for middle and high school.

Over the last three years, the foundation has raised about $500,000 in donations from fundraising events, outright gifts and pledges for the school effort.

“This is an encouraging start to our work,” says Lorri Mull, a KNSCF board member who chairs the Education Committee.

“We are in it to succeed, we have a great team assembled and are gaining strong forward momentum. Our hopes are high for our kids’ futures.”

Mull was involved in a serious effort in the mid-1980s to petition the state Department of Education to open a North Shore middle and high school. That effort faltered, however.

“Both of my kids grew up on the North Shore, and I know the difficulties caused by the lack of public secondary education options in our community,” Mull said.

“The commute is difficult and, in addition to the challenges of the bus ride, students without other transportation options cannot participate in after-school activities. Families may not be as engaged in their kids’ schools as they would like because of the distance factor.”

She said the public charter concept has not been tested on the North Shore before, and she believes it is the most viable option to address this need in that community.

“There is definitely a demonstrated will to see it happen, and we are committed to find the way, although we know it’s going to take a lot of support to see it through,” she said.

Three years ago, Mull led the effort when KNSCF was asked to help community members assess the potential for a public charter, tuition-free middle/high school on the North Shore. Mull is working with Melanie Parker, a Hanalei School parent, who chairs a charter school steering committee composed of parents and community members.

In 2018, the foundation received further impetus for the school project with a 99-year, renewable land license for eight acres at Wai Koa Plantation, from Joan Porter. Soon after, the foundation retained the services of Kilauea resident and education consultant Kapua Chandler and Hanalei school parent Jennifer Luck, who served as a philanthropic adviser to the Porters.

“I can’t think of any goal more compelling or important to the North Shore than the development of a charter school serving our population of junior- and senior-high students,” said Rory Enright, chair of the KNSCF board.

“A remarkable team of individuals has come together on this project to ensure that the upcoming generation of students receives a world-class education,” Enright said. “We’re lucky to have such talented people committed to this project.”

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