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Guthrie Scrimgeour / The Garden Island
Catholic Charities Hawai‘i President and CEO Rob Van Tassell, right, and Board member David Lister participate in a blessing ritual of their expanded office space on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.
Catholic Charities Hawai‘i President and CEO Rob Van Tassell, right, watches Sabra Kauka, left, conduct a traditional ritual blessing of their expanded office space on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.
Sabra Kauka, right, leads a traditional ritual blessing in the expanded Catholic Charities office space on Rice Street in Lihu‘e.
Sabra Kauka, left, conducts a traditional ritual blessing as staff and executives of Catholic Charities Hawai‘i look on during a blessing for the group’s new Rice Street office expansion.
LIHU‘E — Catholic Charities Hawai‘i is celebrating its 30th year of operation on Kaua‘i this year, and they marked the occasion with a blessing of their expanded Rice Street space Thursday.
Sabra Kauka led the blessing — conducting traditional rituals outside the office and making her way through each of the rooms, before leading Catholic Charities executives and staff members in singing Aloha Hawai‘i.
“Blessings on each and every one of you,” Kauka said. “And on your family, and on your descendants, and on your work.”
The office expansion comes as the charity has seen a significant growth of services brought on by increased need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Catholic Charities was placed on the frontline of the pandemic response when they were contracted by the government to help administer several rent relief programs during the height of the virus.
“People were scared,” said Melody Lopez, who leads a staff of five members on Kaua‘i. “Our phone line didn’t stop ringing because people were scared and didn’t know what to do.”
On Kaua‘i, CCH staff served approximately 1,225 households, totaling over 2,500 people — over 1,400 of which were children.
“It was all hands on deck for everyone,” said Lopez. “Our employees were working as much as they could.”
Statewide, the organization provided over $125 million in rental assistance to nearly 20,000 households, doubling the number of clients they assist annually. Though the need might not be as great after the end of the pandemic, President and CEO Rob Van Tassell said he hopes they can continue to work to reduce the effects of the ongoing housing affordability crisis.
“COVID really highlighted the need that is out there,” said Van Tassell. “I don’t know if the need will continue to be as deep but it’s there. We’ve built a lot of connections and collaborations and tools to be more efficient. I see us continuing to do that.”
“We all see the affordability, everyone feels it.” he added. “We want to make sure that everyone has a safe and affordable house.
Among the programs initiated was one that placed homeless people in affordable housing at the Pua Loke development — which set aside five units to homeless individuals and families. This is an area for potential expansion, according to Lopez.
“We’re hoping to replicate that,” said Lopez. “At every project that is being built, we hope that we can set aside a couple of units.”
The expanded space will be a big help for the work the charity does, Lopez said.
“We know that we needed to build our capacity on Kaua‘i,” she said. “We need to get the work done, but we need the space to do that, and also the space for the clients.
Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Honolulu was officially chartered on July 29, 1947, and will be celebrating its 75th year of operation this summer.
CCH’s Kaua‘i community office was founded in 1992 in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane ‘Iniki. Since then, CCH staff has provided an array of social services to assist community members, including significant support during the flooding of 2018.
The organization provided funding for temporary housing to the flooding victims along with tools and supplies to conduct home repairs.
Is this Catholic? When is the open house BLESSINGS for we the needy and faithful general public and Churches???
Mahalo KE AKUA for the people who have helped so many during the pandemic.
You know who you without a publicity stunt….
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