Grants help communities weather emergencies
by Sharon Higa | July 12, 2022
Hurricane season arrived in June and is expected to bring as many as four tropical cyclones to the Central Pacific. To support community emergency preparedness, I’m happy to know that our company has provided grants to organizations working to help individuals and communities prepare and recover from disasters, including:
The American Red Cross is the only nonprofit that responds to disasters 24/7, 365 days a year by mobilizing volunteers and providing food, shelter and comfort to those who need support following a hurricane, fire or other life-changing disaster. These services are provided free of charge.
A grant from Hawaiian Electric is supporting the Hawaii chapter’s Disaster Preparedness and Response Program which recruits, trains and coordinates the on-call volunteers, of which there are more than 1,500 in the nonprofit’s statewide database.
Grant monies also went to retrofit Dodge RAM ProMaster 3500 cargo vans in 2021 for disaster relief work in Hawaii. I think it’s terrific that these specialized vans have been upcycled and are designed to navigate debris-laden streets carrying three full pallets of disaster relief items.
While currently being used to handle day-to-day transportation needs on Oahu and Hawaii Island, in an emergency response, the ProMasters will play an even more critical role as they can nimbly access hard-to-reach communities that are often home to vulnerable populations.
Hawaii, like other coastal communities, is threatened by severe climate impacts and Kapiolani Community College (KCC) is establishing a Resilience Corps at the college to develop the next generation of professionals, educators and neighborhood residents who can integrate sustainability and resilience competencies into their careers and communities.
A grant from Hawaiian Electric awarded to the University of Hawaii Foundation last fall helped support 25 Kapiolani students as resilience corps leaders and 25 middle and high school students as resilience advisors.
In conjunction, a resilient communities training guide is being developed and will be shared with other colleges and universities. KCC also plans to develop community-based and private sector internship opportunities for its students in resilience service and research.
Robert Franco (center), director of KCC’s Office of Institutional Advancement, oversees the development of the Resilience Corps Leaders at a virtual training workshop in Nov. 2021.
Our friends at Valley of Rainbows, the West Oahu-based nonprofit that empowers youth to reach their full potential, launched a Kupuna Disaster Preparedness Project this spring with the help of our grant and other community sponsors.
The Nanakuli High School Lady Hawks basketball team helped assemble and deliver 250 emergency kits to senior housing projects in Nanakuli and Waianae. Each kit included hand sanitizers, a first aid kit, flashlight, whistle, COVID test kits, face masks, toothbrush kit, Hawaiian Electric’s Handbook for Emergency Preparedness, other resource guides, and a folded tarp, all contained inside a sturdy backpack.
“The seniors were really happy and grateful, and it was rewarding for the young ladies to share ,” said Denice Keliikoa, Valley of Rainbows executive director. “We plan to deliver even more kits after seeing how many seniors there are in the community.”
This service project deserves applause as it will help vulnerable kupuna — especially those on fixed incomes or mobility challenged — be prepared and remain safe.
With hurricane season just starting up and the potential for any emergency, we hope you’ll also take the time to stock your own supplies and stay safe!
Sharon Higa is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.