LIHU‘E — Kaua‘i Mayor Derek S.K. Kawakami makes no secret of his love for surfing.
Wednesday, with the county’s pledge of support wrapped as a Christmas present, Kawakami launched the Kaua‘i United Way’s Wave of Compassion campaign that appeals directly to businesses and individuals who have been minimally impacted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.
This has been perhaps the most challenging fundraising year in the 77-year history of Kaua‘i United Way, states a release announcing the Wave of Compassion campaign. And yet, the island’s businesses and residents are responding to the social services need which is more critical than ever.
“The irony is that the services of these agencies are needed now, more than ever,” said Beth Tokioka, KUW president. “And, those who have given so generously in the past are now in need of those services themselves.”
Coming on the heels of a successful 2019 where KUW raised more than $627,000 to benefit its 25 partner agencies that deliver a broad array of more than 80 social service programs, KUW realizes that reaching even 50 percent of that goal might be difficult during the pandemic.
“We launched our campaign this year with guarded expectations, given the state of the economy and the fact that many of our most generous donors — the working men and women of Kaua‘i — are out of work and struggling themselves,” Tokioka said. “So many of these generous givers worked at hotels, rental car agencies, and other businesses that serve the visitor industry, and now, they’re out of work.”
The foundation of KUW’s annual fundraising is the signature payroll deduction program that accounts for nearly one-third of all funds raised in a normal year. Payroll deduction allows employees to give in smaller increments directly from their paycheck throughout the year.
With many of Kaua‘i’s residents out of work, KUW launched the Wave of Compassion campaign, chaired by Tim Takeshita of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.
“Like all nonprofits, we have to be creative and resourceful,” Tokioka said. “We encourage businesses on Kaua‘i who have been buffered by the most severe economic impact of COVID-19 to visit our website at www.kauaiunitedway.org, and give what they are able to afford through the Wave of Compassion.”
A number of Kaua‘i United Way special events, including its golf tournament, the walk-a-thon, and the classical music series had to be suspended this year.
However, a golf ball drop in October raised more than $40,000. The agency received COVID relief funds from the Aloha United Way, the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, the county’s Small Business Boost Grant, and numerous private companies. The Kaua‘i United Way was also awarded a Paycheck Protection Program load that has been successfully converted to a grant.
Traditional Kaua‘i United Way fundraising efforts continue with many companies on the island meeting the challenge.
The County of Kaua‘i exceeded its total employee donations from 2019 along with Corteva Agriscience, and the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative.
“We are hopeful more of our employer groups will come in with good numbers in the next few weeks,” said Kaua‘i United Way Campaign Development Director and Community Liaison Lynette Medrano-Stine.
Kaua‘i United Way’s 25 partner agencies assist tens of thousands of people in need on Kaua‘i, and are vetted and monitored throughout the year, ensuring that a donation will be used wisely and efficiently to bring meaningful service to those in need.
Funds raised on Kaua‘i stay on Kaua‘i.