Families to Get Housing Needs Through Grant
By Catherine Cluett Pactol
Three Ho’olehua families will have improved living conditions thanks to a grant given to The Molokai Baptist Church’s Aloha in Action program, which has been helping community members with building needs for the past 12 years. The $75,000 grant was awarded to the program last week by the Nareit Foundation.
The funding will provide a new roof for a disabled, single mother with her three kids who currently live under a badly leaking roof; a bathroom and septic system installation for a single mother with two children and a grandchild without a bathroom in their home; and a small house for a couple on their homestead property.
“It’s a huge blessing. Our roof has been pretty not well for a quite a long time, with money issues and stuff we weren’t able to replace it, we had pieces replaced here and there but still got leaks in it,” said Malia Bentley, explaining she and her children have been living with a canvas over their house to try to stop the leaks. “When they told me about this, it brought tears to my eyes.”
The grant will cover the cost of building supplies for the three projects, while labor will be volunteered by church and community members.
Pastor Randy Manley of the Molokai Baptist Church said the Aloha in Action started about 12 years ago when they heard about a woman living down the road who had just started cancer treatments and whose stairs to her house were rotting.
“The thought was, we have plenty of guys in our church that know construction, let’s just put that together for them. So it kinda grew out of that,” said Manley.
Manley said the church has a core construction crew of four guys, along with additional volunteers that normally help people, either church members or those in need that they hear of, with a handful of building projects each year. Sometimes it could be a leaky roof, sometimes a family needing a wheelchair ramp, or a deck that’s falling apart.
“We have done a couple of small homes but typically it’s smaller projects that are needed but people either don’t have the funds or they’re older and don’t have anybody to help them out,” explained Manley.
He said the projects that will be built through the grant would probably have happened without it, just much slower.
One of the program volunteers who has worked on Aloha in Action projects for years is now of the recipients.
Kawika Kaahanui and his wife Amber will be getting a two-bedroom, one-bath home.
“We’re thankful — there really are no words. This is almost miraculous,” said Amber Kaahanui. “We’re not quite sure how to process it yet.”
Kawika Kaahanui described the feeling to be on the receiving end of a project as “weird.”
“It’s a little weird for us to accept the blessings, I want to be on the other side, giving stuff,” he said. “We’re already thinking about what we can do for others, to give back.”
“It’s a little hard sometimes with the community, you don’t ever want to admit that you have a problem and need help with something,” he continued. “I think it’s pretty amazing to see how much [the program has] grown over the years.”
Nareit Hawaii Executive Director Gladys Quinto Marrone said this is the first time the foundation has donated to Molokai cause.
“Our foundation supports organizations statewide… and then we got this application from Molokai and I thought, ‘That’s awesome, but how did they find out about us?’” she said.
The answer was church secretary Dana Kaahanui, who originally saw the grant opportunity. It’s also the first time Aloha in Action has received grant funding – most of their resources come from private donations.
“We looked at it and said ‘Hey, this might benefit some families so we applied,” Dana Kaahanui said. “If we can help people on Molokai, that’s what we’re called to do.”
“It was months before we heard anything and then she came in all excited, ‘We got it, we got it!’” said Manley of Dana Kaahanui, calling her the “catalyst” behind the grant.
Marrone said, “We thought, ‘Look at what they’re doing, with the support of volunteers, the expertise in construction — it’s a huge impact on families here in the community. How could we not support them? I’m glad they reached out to us.”
Nareit represents real estate investment trusts – or REITS — worldwide, and the Nareit Hawaii Community Giving Initiative, funded by REITS, supports affordable housing projects provided by nonprofit organizations. REITs are long-term property holders that own, renovate and manage affordable housing projects, commercial buildings, medical facilities, shopping centers, cell phone towers, public storage facilities and hotels in Hawaii.
“The Aloha in Action program is an inspiring example of how a community comes together with volunteer labor and a commitment to make homes better and safer for families to live in and raise children,” said Marrone. “Having a good roof over your head or being able to use your own bathroom are basic essentials that everyone deserves to have in their home. We are extremely proud to support these types of community-driven, family-oriented housing initiatives that are taking place on Molokai.”
Sen. Lynn DeCoite also attended the award presentation at the church last Thursday.
“It’s really heartwarming, we appreciate the donation,” she said. “I cannot tell you how much this means to the island of Molokai.”