Community and nonprofits raise funds for education materials

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Volunteers get ready to hand out bags of school supplies July 25 during a drive-through event organized by Jenee Kahanu.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Cars line Alapa Street to receive bags of school supplies July 25.

  • LAURA RUMINSKI/West Hawaii Today Volunteer Bryson Epenesa hands out bags of school supplies July 24 during a drive-through event organized by Jenee Kahanu.

Hundreds of bags of school supplies were distributed earlier this month ahead of the anticipated reopening of Hawaii Island public schools in August.

Jenee Kahanu decided after being the recipient of school supplies in years past for her three children that it was time to pay it forward. Relying solely on social media, she spread the word that she needed school supplies for keiki in the community.

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And the response, she said, was amazing.

“I have a soft spot for kids,” Kahanu said. “And when I put the word out, the community really came through.”

With help from volunteers, she filled 400 bags with all the items on the school supply list according to grade level, plus snacks. Donations of money and supplies came from local businesses and individuals, and even from as far away as Texas. Contributions also kept her numerous volunteers fed.

Richard Kimitete provided the Kai Ehitu canoe hale at Old Kona Airport Park to volunteers assembling the bags. Distribution took place July 25 at Kumu Aloha Victor’s Halau in the Old Kona Industrial Area.

“I was so overwhelmed,” Kahanu said, adding this was the first time she has ever done anything like this. “People were coming through hard. It wouldn’t have been possible without community support.”

Ka‘analike, a small, grassroots nonprofit, conducted a similar drive-through school supply distribution in the Kona Home Deport parking lot. The organization raised money and purchased items for students in grades K-8, including snacks, binder paper, pencils, pens, crayons, craft kits and even emergency crank weather radios for middle school students.

Founder Nalani Freitas said ka‘analike means “sharing.”

“Ka‘analike is a small group of dedicated individuals that volunteer countless hours of personal time, talent and skills to benefit our community,” she said.

With the impact of the coronavirus, Freitas said the organization has struggled to find safe but effective ways to help the community.

“One of the impacts of the COVID-19 that affected our nonprofit is thinking of innovative events or projects that can help those in need and at the same time keep everyone safe,” Freitas said. “Due to the COVID-19 protocol we no longer hold events that have person-to-person contact with our community members so, ironically, it’s been difficult to provide help and assistance to our community.”

But it hasn’t stopped the efforts.

In March, the group conducted a care package giveaway at the Hualalai Elderly Housing.

Freitas wants to provide keiki with educational projects such as gardening, cooking, aquaponics and sewing. She’s looking to connect with community members with expertise in these and other areas who have ideas on how to provide low-cost kits and instructions to keep the kids engaged.

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She also is looking for input on other ways the nonprofit can help the community. Freitas can be reached at kaanalike@hawaii.rr.com. Donations are also welcome to offset the costs associated with projects

Email Laura Ruminski at lruminski@westhawaiitoday.com.

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