Artwork and compassion create smiles

by Robert Yang | Oct. 6, 2020

Last year I was busy greeting customers at the First Hawaiian International Auto Show, passing out prizes to families at the Keiki Tilapia Fishing Tournament on Maui and helping to construct the holiday float for the annual Honolulu City Lights Parade. This year, it’s a little different. Most public gatherings have been banned due to community efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, yet the spirit that drives Hawaiian Electric employees to give back to the community hasn’t wavered.

For example, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 14, 2020, a company-wide effort led by Senior Community Affairs Consultant Sam Nichols and Corporate Analyst Kelly Takiguchi encouraged employees and their friends and family members to create handmade, heartwarming greeting cards for our kupuna who receive meals from various nonprofits across Oahu, Maui County and Hawaii Island. The turnout was astounding! The virtual volunteer event drew over 225 people to sign up and, together, employees and their ohana created over 2,100-plus cards while at home! Sam and Kelly collected and organized the cards, and distributed/mailed them to the respective nonprofit organization. Many families bonded through creating these cards, and parents were able to teach their keiki a life lesson about helping others. I ended up creating 16 cards, each featuring vibrant watercolor artwork.

“My heart hurt thinking of all the elderly people who were not allowed to see their children and grandchildren at the beginning of the stay-at-home orders. I started making greeting cards for a few retirement homes where my elderly friends had been cared for so I shared the possibility of having our department make greeting cards for the kupuna with my coworkers. Everyone got excited about the idea,” Sam said.

Kelly added: “We have a number of talented artists and crafters in my area who always want to give back to the community. I asked Sam if we could make this a joint community service event, and she gladly agreed.” It started with a small group of people and led to a company-wide effort to put smiles on people’s faces in the midst of a pandemic.

“While we have the technology to simply send a quick email greeting, there’s nothing like going the extra mile by creating a physical greeting card and sending it to someone. Let’s face it, everyone enjoys receiving happy mail,” Sam and Kelly said.

Each card featured creative artwork like colorful drawings, paintings, origami and more. A simple, yet powerful and uplifting message can be found handwritten on each card: “Aloha, we hope you enjoy your day.” It was like sending a warm hug through artwork.

All cards were sent to the nonprofit organizations listed below. If you would also like to contribute and volunteer, please visit any of the websites to learn how:

An event like this would not be possible without our company’s People Power program, which gives employees the tools and resources to give back to our communities in meaningful ways.

I can’t help but feel good knowing that I’ll help bring a smile to 16 kupuna who open up my cards.

Robert Yang is a digital communications and social media specialist at Hawaiian Electric Company.

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