Lanikeha Re-Opens with a Facelift
With a mission to help homestead farmers reach their full potential, Lanikeha Community Center in Ho’olehua has reopened its doors with renovations that represent a dream.
“We began this dream a few years ago, we stayed on that mission… and what people said was a mission impossible, is mission accomplished,” said Rosie Davis, legal authorized representative of the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance (MHFA). “Our journey continues and it’s just getting better. We’re so proud of where we were… and where we’re going. [This facility] strengthens the community, it strengthens our homesteaders.”
The $1.7 million renovation project by the MHFA, which manages the facility, was paid for by state Grant in Aid funds. The goal of the improvements was to help foster the production of value-added products by local farmers and homesteaders, as well as make the facility more useable for the community. Improvements include a new, built-in stage and integrated sound system in the hall, new and improved equipment in the certified kitchen, new flooring and ceiling fans, repairs to roof damages, and new paint inside and out. Construction was completed by local contractors Chip and Pam Matson of C&P Creations, designed by Molokai architect Rich Young.
Lanikeha was closed for one year while the improvements were made.
A grand re-opening celebration was held last Saturday, attended by community members and state dignitaries. Hawaiian Immersion program students opened the event with an oli, while attendees bowed their head in prayer and officials untied ti leaf lei to the front door.
“When I first was talked to about this project, [they spoke of] the need to invest in a community center that could really launch the farmers here on Molokai to that next level,” said Gov. David Ige at the re-opening. “[I] heard about some of the dreams that the farmers had for having a facility with a class one commercial kitchen that really would allow them to create value added products. They really believed that’s what they needed to take the homesteaders to that next level.”
MHFA Board President Faith Tuipulotu said the Alliance was started in 2006 to help farmers get ahead, and producing value added products is one way to achieve that goal. Samples of example products like mango bread and cinnamon chips were available for attendees to try. The MHFA also provides local farmers with training and education opportunities, help advocating for water rights and other issues, and other tools to assist their productivity and business plans.
Molokai’s Rep. Lynn DeCoite said she and Sen. Kalani English worked hard to get funding allocated for the project.
“I really hope that this facility is not just for Ho’olehua homestead, but for all Native Hawaiians in the community of Molokai,” she said. “[Lanikeha] was always open for everybody, and it has been a blessing… I’m very proud of this.”
Department of Hawaiian Homelands Chair Jobie Masagatani recalled when the original Lanikeha facility was built around 2000 to replace the former Molokai Rec Center, which had fallen into disrepair and was later demolished.
“This is really a celebration of the Molokai Homestead Farmers Alliance accomplishment in terms of this beautiful renovation,” said Masagatani. “[I] honor this place and what it means for Ho’olehua and for Molokai. I’m excited about the next generation of use.”
She credited DeCoite among others for making the project happen. “There’s only one person that calls me a 5 o’clock in the morning and that’s Lynn DeCoite, because she’s a farmer,” Masagatani chuckled.
Now that renovations are completed, Lanikeha is back open for community events, parties and farmers to process their products in the certified kitchen.
“I’m involved with many projects all across the state and this is one of the few that really exceeds the expectations,” said Ige. “You really outdid yourselves, this is really an A-plus project, the state got every single penny of value from this project and it really is a reflection of the community.”