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Inspiration. Perspiration. Participation.
Here’s how four Pacific Office Properties neighbors make volunteering and generosity innovative,
creative and even delicious.
By Gail Miyasaki
We are a giving people. We bring back omiyage for co-workers from off-island trips. We leave bags of mangoes and avocadoes from our backyard trees on neighbors’ porches. And who doesn’t go to an island-style get-together without a bottle of wine, a container of poke or flowers for the hostess? It’s no surprise that Hawaii has been ranked as high as sixth in the nation in charitable giving, just behind New York and California, by the Center on Wealth and Philanthropy, which compared how generously state residents gave compared to their capacities to give. Meet some of the companies among your Pacific Office Properties neighbors who are not only generous donors, but also creative givers who make going to work and living in
Hawaii even better than it already is.
ONE CHILD AT A TIME
Several years ago, when attorney Melissa Pavlicek of Hawaii Public Policy Advocates (HPPA) was visiting Kamaile Public Charter School in Nanakuli for client Kamehameha Schools (which supports public charter schools) she made a surprising discovery. At the K-8 school’s on-campus store, instead of toys and games, she found bags of rice, rubber slippers and other necessities.
“We learned that nearly a third of Kamaile’s 1,000 students are homeless,” says Pavlicek, who founded HPPA with her husband, attorney Stephen Teves, to provide public-policy and legislative-advocacy services for non-profits. The group discovered that, without infrastructure at home, some of life’s basic necessities were going unfulfilled for many school children. “We saw with our own eyes that students are given T-shirt uniforms that they can launder at school, which has washing machines on campus.” Kamaile opened on DOE “furlough” days in 2010 because many students don’t have meals unless they come to school.
Basic goods and services are available to students in need, and the arrangement also provides teaching opportunities. Good attendance, academics and other positive behaviors earn students points to take home food and other items from the school store. Knowing this, HPPA’s small office of seven employees regularly donates food items, because “nothing is more important to a child in need than food,” explains Pavlicek. HPPA asked a client, the Hawaii Pscyhological Association, to donate its food-drive proceeds to Kamaile in 2010. Every Christmas, the staff loads up at Costco on canned goods and other bulk food items to give to the school store.
“Kamaile has outstanding academic achievement, even with limited resources. These students are really trying. That’s why we got involved. We feel our small contribution can make a huge difference for a family, one child at a time,” says Pavlicek.
Pacific Office Property members prove there are countless ways to give back. Clockwise from left: Pacific Office Properties executive vice president Larry Taff enjoys a Bowl for Kids’ Sake outing. Derek Kanehira and First Insurance Company staff help prepare a community garden at Ahuimanu Elementary School in Kaneohe and Melissa Pavlicek of Hawaii Public Policy Advocates displays a typical collection of food items the company frequently donates to Kamaile Public Charter School in Nanakuli.
Companies that give to the community are numerous and generous in Hawaii. But how many Island businesses can claim that their individual employees, not a management committee, decide what charities receive the company’s donations? That’s what the Pacific Cares program, inspired by Pacific Office Properties chairman and CEO, Jay Shidler, does by giving each Pacific Office employee $1,000 annually (in two gifts of $500 each) to designate, in his or her name, to one or two charities of his or her choice.
“It’s corporate giving taken to the grassroots level. Our people research the non-profits to make sure they qualify and even end up volunteering for them,” says Honolulu office manager Joy Hessenflow who oversees the Honolulu operations program.
Volunteering among staff is also employee-directed through SEVA (Service through Endeavor, Value through Action), says Hessenflow. The company’s Community Support Group, a cross-section of the company’s 32 employees, oversees SEVA activities. From four charitable activities in 2009, SEVA volunteers are involved with seven charities in 2011, each “owned” and organized by a different Pacific Office volunteer employee.
SEVA makes innovative use of Pacific Office’s seven Class-A commercial properties, with on-site drives for a back-to-school backpack and school-supply drive for children at the Institute for Human Services (IHS), food items for the Food Bank, and a BackPack of Love drive for basic necessities and a stuffed animal or gift card for Hale Kipa’s Youth Outreach program in Waikiki, among others.
Food and fun have become a company tradition for the employees of DTRIC Insurance at events where they can get together in friendly competition, work as a team and get to know each other … with yummy results for a good cause.
“We have great cooks among our employees who generously share their skills to give back to the community and to each other,” says vice president of sales and marketing Linh DePledge. “Having our employees get together during the work day is a great way to show our appreciation. Our annual cookoff has become the employee favorite.”
Begun in 2010 with a fried-rice competition among employee teams, the annual cookoff is one of the fun employee events DTRIC’s Activity Committee organizes each month for its 92 employees. Other tenants at the Pan Am Building can join the cookoff festivities for a small ticket price; some even serve as judges for “Best of Best.”
Inspired by founder and executive chairman Ron Toyofuku’s “ohana spirit” company philosophy, DTRIC also contributes to the community, says DePledge. A company bake sale of homemade goodies and an employee-run donation drive raised more than $5,600 for the American Red Cross’ Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami relief fund. Employees also donated thousands of pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks and more to the Pan Am Building’s school-supply drive in July.
“Giving back to the community and giving to each other are what makes DTRIC special,” says DePledge, who hints that Loco Moco might be 2012’s cookoff challenge.
Photo: David Croxford
100 YEARS, 100 EVENTS
Celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2011, First Insurance encourages its 312 employees to give their time and talents for 100 community events, one for each year of the company’s existence. Credit the 100 events to administration manager Suzun Weeks-Pell and human resources manager Derek Kanehira, who serve on the First CAT (Community Action Team), the employee committee that spearheads the company’s community-service activities.
By August, First CAT, which is self-sustaining, had 91 events planned and 68 completed. The community-service activities, many done in partnership with other organizations, have benefitted human services, education and environmental causes. They run the gamut from tried-and-true activities to some truly unique events.
Employees, for example, have volunteered more than 400 man hours (two days a week) to Meals on Wheels. Big Brothers, Big Sisters received more than $16,000 from a fundraising bowl-a-thon by 120 employees, family members, agents and other partners. Staff volunteers conducted park and beach cleanups. First CAT donated specialized software designed for autistic children to Easter Seals. Partnering with solar-energy company Sunetric, First CAT even sold shave ice – running the machines on solar power – to raise money at an outdoor dog show in Ewa Beach.
“We have incredibly generous associates who give their time, in-kind donations and money,” says Kanehira. A goal for the 100 events is 100-percent volunteer participation from every department.
“It’s wonderful to see people from different departments meeting each other and working on volunteer teams together,” adds Weeks-Pell. “It’s hard work. We have nine more events to go until the end of the year, but we’re having fun giving back.”
Photo: David Croxford
School Supply Drive
Responding to Building Management’s request for school supplies to donate to the IHS, DTRIC employees once again rallied together for a good cause and held their own internal donation drive. Shopping-savvy employees took advantage of back-to-school sales and the results were impressive, with thousands of pencils, pens, crayons, notebooks, and other school essentials collected and dropped off to building management.
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