Hilton employees give back to Humane Society

With rakes, paintbrushes, brooms and trowels, nearly 50 volunteers spent Tuesday sprucing up the welcome center and surrounding areas at Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Animal Community Center in Keauhou Mauka.

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With rakes, paintbrushes, brooms and trowels, nearly 50 volunteers spent Tuesday sprucing up the welcome center and surrounding areas at Hawaii Island Humane Society’s Animal Community Center in Keauhou Mauka.

The volunteers were employees from three Hilton Grand Vacations Club properties at Waikoloa Beach Resort. They were participating in Hilton Worldwide’s third annual Global Week of Service, a service initiative that brings thousands of volunteer team members across 93 countries and territories together to help strengthen the company’s connections with the communities it serves.

Community service is an integral part of Hilton Worldwide’s culture and leadership, said Samantha Jayakumar, Hilton Grand Vacations human resources and learning and development manager. “Besides being leaders in our industry, we also strive to be leaders in our communities,” she added.

In 2013, team members at more than 900 Hilton properties and offices completed more than 2,400 volunteer projects in 700 cities across the company’s global footprint. This year, the company aims to build upon this community engagement and hopes to complete more than 3,000 service projects.

Throughout the year, Hilton Grand Vacations Club does several community service projects, such as manning an aid station for the Ironman World Championship, donating food to the Hawaii Island Food Basket and participating in the Visitor Industry Charity Walk, an annual event raising money for nonprofits. For Global Week of Service, Hilton Grand Vacations Club chose to give back to the Hawaii Island Humane Society because of its ongoing partnership, one that includes controlling the feral and stray cat population in the Waikoloa Beach Resort area. Also, the team looks forward to the Animal Community Center being in full operation, said general manager Rob Gunthner.

The Animal Community Center is more than a shelter. When completed, the 12-acre facility on Old Mamalahoa Highway will have a veterinary clinic, kennels for 60 dogs, a cattery, an education center, a 1-acre dog park, horse park and stable, a small animal park, a walking trail, an amphitheater, a memorial garden and other amenities. It will provide a peaceful and comfortable temporary home for animals big and small. It will also be a place for youth to participate in healthy, outdoor after-school activities; for community members and organizations to volunteer and interact with each in a positive way; and for seniors to enjoy the health benefits of interacting with animals, Donna Whitaker, the Humane Society’s executive director.

Work at the site began in April and the progress has been steady, Whitaker said. “We’re hoping to move in by the end of 2015 or the middle of 2016,” she added.

Whitaker was “amazed” by the work Hilton Grand Vacations Club volunteers had accomplished in the first hour of cleaning, painting and landscaping. She said they had already transformed and greatly improved the welcome center inside and out. She spoke about the importance of partnerships, saying community members and volunteer days are instrumental in moving the project forward while also helping the nonprofit save money.

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Elton Akana, assistant chief engineer for the Hilton Grand Vacations Club, has found coordinated employee volunteer activities are a great way for his co-workers to bond while also giving back to their community and promoting the causes they care about. He said such outings not only energize and make participants feel good, but all bring more unity and make the team stronger.

What Akana hopes the Humane Society sees is “the community cares, thinks this expansion is a good thing, and wants to help them continue their good work.”

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