Giving back is in the blood

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island file

    Kelvin Moniz of the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, left, accepts a $2,000 contribution from contractor Luis Soltren, who challenged other contractors to match the effort to help feed the many families impacted by unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Soltren also contributed six cases of military-style, ready-to-eat meals.

  • The Garden Island file

    Shibo Cho Luis Soltren, left, and Elora Phuthamma Bray, follow along to Sempai Adrian Labrador, not pictured, during a karate class at All Saints Episcopal Church gym in Kapa‘a.

  • The Garden Island file

    Luis Soltren, general contractor for Luis and Eddie Soltren Construction, was on the short list of finalists for Hawai‘i’s Better Business Bureau Torch Award.

From donating to food banks to helping coordinate fundraisers, Kaua‘i custom home builder and “Dateline” TV show producer Luis Soltren has been busy helping his Kaua‘i community stay strong through the COVID-19 pandemic.

When stay-at-home orders began to affect Kaua‘i residents’ income and food programs sprouted up to care for the need, Soltren invested $20,000 into a variety of military-style ready-to-eat meals (RMEs), and dropped a few of them off at the Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank, along with a $2,000 donation to KIFB.

Kelvin Moniz, executive director of KIFB, said the donation allowed KIFB “to purchase more food for the furlough workers.”

The rest of the MREs were handed out to homeless individuals when Soltren had time on the weekends.

Soltren’s community-minded lifestyle has been a longtime fixture on Kaua‘i. Far before the novel coronavirus made an appearance in the world, he’d been investing in island communities, particularly focusing on children.

For 38 years Soltren has headed up a program with his brother and business partner Eddie Soltren, giving away toys to keiki during the Christmas season. They gift to keiki every year things like bikes and helmets, television sets and stereos, and other presents, and are helped in the endeavor by Kaua‘i officials like Mayor Derek Kawakami and state Rep. Jimmy Tokioka.

Soltren said his gift-giving came full circle recently at All Saints Episcopal Church in Kapa‘a, when a man in his 40s came up to him and thanked him for a gift received years ago.

“You gave me a bike. I never forgot,” Soltren said, remembering the stranger’s words.

Growing up with seven siblings in a single-parent home on Kaua‘i taught Soltren the importance of community support, and how to show gratitude by giving back to that community.

“There are things in life more important than money,” said Soltren. “As long as you are healthy and strong, you can make money. But don’t walk away from someone in need.”

When he’s not chasing down leads for “Dateline,” building custom homes or showering his community with gifts of gratitude and support, Soltren practices karate, and offers a few training sessions for keiki.

“Most of my weekends are always belonging to someone, ‘cause I am either helping someone or doing something for someone,” said Soltren.

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Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or sshinno@thegardenisland.com.

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