by Donica Kaneshiro | Nov. 14, 2021
As we kick off sales of our United Way cookbook, “Classic Eats and Modern Treats,” we look back at the origins of the annual fundraiser and the story of a retiree who has supported the sale since its early years.
After decades of selling the Hawaiian Electric cookbook at craft fairs and community events on Oahu, many know retiree Annie Freitas as the cookbook lady. But few know the reason she is a fixture at the fundraisers. It is the generosity she was shown as a child that keeps her committed.
“Only a few of my friends know I was brought up in an orphanage from when I was 10 to 20,” Annie said.
After her mother suffered a stroke and ended up in Maluhia, what was then the municipal hospital in Liliha, Annie recalled, “the Maryknoll nuns were my caregivers because I was a ward of the court.” “I came under Catholic Charities and that’s how I got into what used to be called the Kalihi Orphanage. In the beginning, I received benefits from Aloha United Way because they were one of the receivers.”
Annie never forgot that kindness. “That’s why I give back. Because I believe they give you help when you need help. I always had that connection from when I was young and it hasn’t left me.”
Annie said many people may be benefitting from services supported by United Way and not even realize it, whether it’s senior care for an elderly parent, or their kids or grandkids who take classes at the Y.
Even if you aren’t currently accessing services from one of United Way’s nonprofit partners, you never know when your circumstances may change. “You never know when you’re going to need it,” she said.
The annual cookbook has become an institution at Hawaiian Electric, but it wasn’t always that way. It is the legacy of a few employees with a willingness to try something new.
As Hawaiian Electric’s centennial approached in 1991, it was suggested that the company draw on its Home Economics history to create a charity cookbook.
Charlotte Kawazoe, former director of Education & Consumer Affairs credits her staff, Pat Rea, Julia Cabatu, Regina Ting and Shirley Allan, for coming up with the idea of a centennial cookbook. They worked together to cull the cookbook selections from the company’s massive files of thousands of recipes.
At least 30,000 copies of “A Hundred Years of Island Cooking,” were sold for just $5, half of which went to benefit the Hawaii Home Economics Association and Parents and Children Together (PACT). The next year, the company broadened its reach and began selling cookbooks to support Aloha United Way, a fundraiser the company has been doing ever since.
Annie’s involvement with the cookbook came a few years later when some friends in the company’s Power Supply division asked her for help. Annie, who worked in Customer Service at the time, had already been going to craft fairs to raise funds for her church and thought she’d try selling our cookbook. She was surprised to find that the cookbook was the biggest seller that year. That was more than 20 years ago.
“For me, it’s giving back to the community. I cannot give thousands of dollars in donations, but I can give time and effort,” Annie said. Annie found that she could sell 300–500 books over the course of a weekend event.
“For some reason in Hawaii, even though you can get recipes on the internet, people still look for the Hawaiian Electric cookbook,” Charlotte said.
Annie agreed, “Just the name sold the books. As long as the money is going to Aloha United Way, everybody knows Hawaiian Electric cookbooks are good. People believe in the company’s recipes.” (As of last year, proceeds from cookbook sales now also benefit United Way chapters on Hawaii Island and Maui.)
At the height of her craft fair commitment, Annie would attend 30 events a year across the island, bringing in thousands of dollars each year for Hawaiian Electric’s campaign. Even last year, with events canceled due to the pandemic, Annie managed to sell about 300 cookbooks over the phone through her network of retirees. This year, Annie will again be selling the fundraising cookbook, “Classic Eats and Modern Treats,” at the Hawaii United Okinawa Association craft fair Nov. 27 and 28 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hawaii Okinawa Center, 94–587 Ukee St. in Waipahu.
With COVID-19 affecting so many families, Annie encourages people to consider the impact of their gift. “It really is to help someone and it’s going to come back to you, too, to your family somehow.”
We hope you will consider supporting our local communities by purchasing this year’s cookbook here.
Donica Kaneshiro is a communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.