Insights & Stories

25 Great Ways to Make a Difference in Hawaii This Holiday Giving Season

Reading time: 13 Minutes

By Maria Kanai

December 3rd, 2019

The holidays are a giving season, and here in Hawaii, we are an Island community always willing to kokua and share aloha with others—whether through volunteer service or donating money or goods.

Live Kokua—to give in the spirit of helping others—is commonplace at Bank of Hawaii. Our Live Kokua Employee Giving Campaigns are employee led and generously supported each year to advance the important work of more than 20 nonprofit beneficiaries in Hawaii and the West Pacific.

In addition to featuring creative fundraisers—everything from pie-eating contests to decadent bake sales to pop-up fashion sales and curated dining experiences and more—employees, aka Bankoh Blue Crew members, willingly invest their hearts and hands to give back. In 2018, for example, the Live Kokua Employee Giving Campaign raised a record-breaking $760,000 to benefit more than 20 nonprofits. Bank of Hawaii employees also volunteered a total of 7,600 hours last year, at 155 different charitable events.

Bank of Hawaii employees select the nonprofit beneficiaries that receive Live Kokua donations. This year, we are proud to support 25 organizations that make a big difference by providing critical services to uplift and empower everyday people—our keiki to kupuna—and that help create opportunities for a healthier community.

If you're interested this season or any time in new ways to lend your time, talents or financial support to a nonprofit organization, we've assembled this handy list featuring our current beneficiaries. Learn more about what they each do, as well as what service opportunities are available (and which align with your specific interests or talents!) to help you make an informed decision on what or how you'd like to Live Kokua this holiday season.

Food

Aloha Harvest

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Aloha Harvest feeds Hawaii's hungry by gathering extra, leftover food from places like restaurants, food distributors and hotels where it otherwise would have been thrown away. If you're interested in helping out, you can volunteer to deliver food to social service agencies and churches for distribution, handle clerical work in the office or lend a hand at special events. Or, if you're hosting an event that may end up with leftovers, contact Aloha Harvest to make sure your event extras don't go to waste, and instead go to people in need. alohaharvest.org, (808) 537-6945

Hawaii Foodbank

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Hawaii Foodbank joins forces with the food industry and the local community as a bridge between charities and those in need of food. Last year, the organization received more than 12.5 million pounds of food in its warehouses on Oahu and Kauai and served more than 287,000 Hawaii residents. In such a large and established nonprofit, there's a wide range of volunteer opportunities if you have a free day or just a few hours: do clerical work in the warehouse, pack up food on a Saturday or participate in seasonal community events. hawaiifoodbank.org, (808) 954-7869

Keiki and Ohana

Child & Family Service

Dedicated to strengthening families and fostering healthy children, Child & Family Service offers nearly 50 programs that address poverty, abuse and neglect in Hawaii. Volunteers can assist in these programs, do administrative tasks or support fundraising events. The nonprofit typically asks that volunteers help out either 10 hours a week or more, or four hours a week or more for four consecutive weeks. childandfamilyservice.org, (808) 543-8457

Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children – Child Life Program

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This program helps keiki better cope with their illnesses and their stay in the hospital. You can help by participating in play time activities with kids, and assisting with special events, holidays and birthday celebrations. Donations of toys, games and supplies are always accepted. hawaiipacifichealth.org/kapiolani/services/child-life, (808) 983-8281

Kids Hurt Too Hawaii

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This organization provides a safe space for more than 500 children and teens who are grieving the loss of a parent or trauma from abuse. It provides peer support groups and mentoring programs, education, training and workshops, as well as crisis management services. If you're interested in helping out, you can become a youth mentor or volunteer facilitator, and donate toys or craft supplies. You can also help prepare, plan or serve food at support group dinners. kidshurttoo.org, (808) 545-5683

PACT

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PACT stands for Parents and Children Together, a nonprofit that's helped more than 15,000 parents, children and individuals in Hawaii who have experienced abuse and domestic violence. PACT also offers crucial early childhood education and mental and behavioral health support. You can help out during events such as the Keiki Day Fundraiser, Turkey Bowl (a sporting event for teens), the Angel Tree Toy Drive and much more. pacthawaii.org, (808) 847-3285

Hale Kipa

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Each year, Hale Kipa provides a broad range of services to runaways, houseless and street-identified youth, including a large population of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community. These services include basics such as meals, showers, clothing and laundry, counseling, crisis intervention and independent living skills training. You can help by donating household supplies, clothes, personal and recreational items, hardware and food, or get involved in a more direct way by teaching in a residential program, doing crafts and activities with kids, or helping cook meals. Volunteers need to go through background checks and get a health clearance, so a longer commitment of several days a week for more than one month is preferred. halekipa.org, (808) 589-1829

Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii

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As the local chapter of the national Boys & Girls Club of America, Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii offers after-school and summer programs focusing on increasing academic success and good character at nine sites on Oahu and Kauai, helping out more than 15,000 youth every year. Volunteers are needed in a variety of areas, including doing office work, helping create art, tutoring, marketing, gardening or landscaping. bgch.com, (808) 949-4203

Shriners Hospital for Children–Honolulu

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The Honolulu facility helps children who need orthopedic care, neurodevelopmental care, fracture care, surgery, physical therapy, occupational therapy, radiology, orthotics and prosthetics and other ancillary services. You can assist with recreation or physical therapy, do clerical work, transport patients, deliver supplies, cover reception and tutor patients. You must be able to volunteer two hours per week during the weekdays for at least five months. shrinershospitalsforchildren.org/honolulu, (808) 941-4466

Outdoors

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii

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Tackle plastic pollution by joining Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii on its many beach cleanups. This local organization has removed more than 90,000 pounds of marine debris from our state's coastlines, and it also provides education in schools and even on the beach via its very own mobile classroom. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii also partners with big names like Adidas, Corona, Vans and Volcom to recycle and reuse plastic. Check the SCH website and social media for the next beach cleanup—the events usually run about two hours long and take place during morning hours. sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org, info@sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org

People

Institute for Human Services (IHS)

IHS helps houseless individuals and families in Hawaii by facilitating the transition to permanent housing and teaching skills necessary to remain in housing. You can pitch in by serving meals, helping maintain the shelter, or teaching resume writing and other business skills. You must fill out an application, attend an orientation, commit to three months of volunteering and submit a TB test or chest X-ray to work in the meal program. ihshawaii.org, (808) 447-2800

U.S. VETS

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U.S. VETS is a private nonprofit organization providing housing, employment and counseling services to veterans. Here in Hawaii, the U.S. VETS location at Barber's Point serves about 1,000 vets, and the location at Waianae Civic Center is the only one that serves both veterans, civilians and their families. You can help by organizing fun events, teaching a life skill, wrapping gifts during the holidays or putting together hygiene kits for the houseless. You can also help with landscaping projects for the Barber's Point location. Most opportunities take place on Saturdays. Email tsasaki@usvetsinc.org to sign up. usvetsinc.org/barberspoint, (808) 672-2977

Domestic Violence Action Center (DVAC)

Since 1990, DVAC has provided crisis support and legal services to those suffering domestic violence and other forms of abuse. You can donate school supplies, help out at events and wrap and deliver holiday gifts to community members being served by DVAC. Some opportunities require a volunteer application and possibly a background check. stoptheviolence.org, (808) 534-0040

Blood Bank of Hawaii

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This nonprofit has been saving lives for more than 70 years by providing blood to 18 civilian hospitals statewide. You can help in the Blood Bank's mission by hosting a blood drive, helping monitor donors after they've given blood, performing clerical work, assisting with special projects or hosting a donor refreshment area. Of course, you can also always donate blood at the Young Street Donor Center or one of the Blood Bank's pop-up donor centers, many of which are conducted at places of employment. bbh.org, (808) 848-4734

Navian Hawaii

Navian Hawaii (formerly Hospice Hawaii) helps patients at the end of their life's journey, providing specialized medical care, guidance and emotional support so that each person can live their life to the fullest, for as long as possible, in a location a patient calls home. You can provide companionship, work in an office, assist in special events and much more. In order to volunteer, you'll need to submit an online application, complete a personal interview and an orientation. Some volunteer opportunities may require certifications and licenses (if, for example, you'd like to provide notary public services). navianhawaii.org, (808) 924-9255

American Cancer Society Hawaii Pacific Region—Clarence T.C. Ching Hope Lodge

The Hawaii branch of the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge offers a home away from home for cancer patients and caregivers who have long commutes to receive treatment in Honolulu, particularly those living on neighbor islands. There are more than 30 Hope Lodges around the nation. You can help prepare meals, provide entertainment, plan special events and drive patients to and from treatments. Short-term and long-term opportunities are available on weekdays, weekends or evenings. cancer.org, (808) 566-8430

Aloha United Way

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Aloha United Way (AUW) works to bring together resources, organizations and people to advance the health, education and financial stability of every person in the Hawaii community. AUW focuses its efforts on education, poverty prevention and safety net services, reaching more than 850,000 people across the state each year. Fill out the volunteer consent form on the website and you'll get access to nearly 300 agencies supported by AUW. The online platform has a variety of volunteer opportunities and each one lists how you can help, your level of time commitment and any specific requirements. auw.org, (808) 536-1951

Kauai United Way

Kauai United Way puts together dollars, volunteers, in-kind support and outreach for 26 nonprofit agencies on the island. The organization typically needs the most help for two annual events: a walkathon in October and a golf tournament in July. Be added to the volunteer list by emailing info@kauaiunitedway.orgkauaiunitedway.org, (808) 245-2043

Maui United Way

This nonprofit raises funds and supports 30 health and human services partner agencies on Maui. Part of its work is matching volunteers up with organizations. Sign up online to be added on a volunteer list, where you'll be able to find an opportunity that fits your schedule and also an organization that's meaningful to you. You can also help with Maui United Way's seasonal events like its Holiday Toy Drive or Tools for School Drive. mauiunitedway.com(808) 244-8787

Habitat for Humanity Hawaii Island

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Part of the global nonprofit Habitat for Humanity, this branch aims to help Hawaii Island families find and stay in homes. You can volunteer at a home construction site even if you don't have previous construction experience. Or, if your expertise is in the office, help with administrative tasks such as entering data and writing newsletters. habitathawaiiisland.org, (808) 331-8010

The American Red Cross of Hawaii

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The American Red Cross of Hawaii provides awareness, preparation and direct relief support during emergencies and disasters. You can help with routine administrative duties, join the disaster action team to help provide emergency response to local disasters or teach kupuna how to prevent and escape from home fires. Apply online or email volunteerpacific@redcross.org. redcross.org/local/hawaii, (808) 734-2101

The American Red Cross of Guam

This chapter serves all 19 villages in the territory of Guam with similar tasks as the Hawaii branch, such as helping disaster victims, teaching people first aid techniques and providing emergency communication between deployed military service members and their families. Pitch in by being a caseworker for military and their families, or volunteer at the U.S. Naval Hospital. Apply online or email volunteerpacific@redcross.orgredcross.org/local/guam.html, (671) 472-6217

The American Red Cross of the Northern Mariana Islands

This division of the American Red Cross serves the islands of Rota, Tinian and Saipan, as well as the Northern Islands. You can volunteer in the office, train to become a caseworker, help with communications for military members or be on-call to respond to home fires. redcross.org/local/northern-mariana-islands.html, (670) 234-3459

Friendly Isle United Fund

Every year, the Molokai Community Service Council holds a campaign to raise funds for nearly 25 nonprofit projects on Molokai, with an emphasis on youth programs and community-building activities. While there are no volunteer opportunities for the Friendly Isle United Fund campaign itself, you can assist the council by teaching a class at the Molokai Youth Center, passing out flyers, holding signs and more. molokai.org/programs/friendly-isle-united-fund, (808) 553-3244

Salvation Army—Hawaiian and Pacific Islands

Part of the worldwide Salvation Army, this division serves Hawaii, Saipan, Palau and Guam. The organization provides food for the hungry, relief for disaster victims, assistance for the disabled, outreach to the elderly and ill, clothing and shelter to the houseless and opportunities for underprivileged children. Volunteers can help feed the houseless, maintain the facility, assist in administrative work and much more. hawaii.salvationarmy.org, (808) 988-2136

5 Tips to Consider when Donating Money to Charity

Giving money to a nonprofit is one of the best ways to help make a difference in Hawaii. Here are a few pointers for making your cash donations as effective as possible.

  1. Follow your heart.When choosing a nonprofit to donate to, look for organizations supporting causes you're passionate about. Knowing you're making a real difference with something you personally care about will make your donation all the more meaningful.
  2. Do your research. You'll want to make sure any nonprofit organization you're considering giving money to is a legitimate charity. Guidestar.org is a valuable resource for vetting nonprofits to make sure they're not scams, and that they are proper 501(c)3 organizations registered with the IRS.
  3. Look for cost-effective nonprofits. While looking at a nonprofit's financials on Guidestar, check out how much of its total budget is spent on actual program activities. Sixty-five percent or higher is recommended by the Better Business Bureau.
  4. Help build a nonprofit's financial stability by setting up a repeating donation. When it comes to donating, every dollar counts, of course. But you can really help a nonprofit out by setting up regular, recurring donations. The more even and predictable a nonprofits' income is, the easier it is to carry out its mission.
  5. Don't earmark your donations.When giving cash, it can be tempting to request that your funds must be spent in specific ways. But nonprofits will tell you that the most useful contributions are the unrestricted ones. Paying for electricity and office supplies might not sound exciting, but it all helps to further the core mission.

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