Runnin’ with Rani: Cycle of giving — Franz Weber, volunteer extraordinaire, paying it forward

  • Students at Kealakehe Intermediate received bikes, helmets, water bottles and safety lights from Weber's Paying It Forward nonprofit. (Franz Weber/Courtesy Photo)

  • Weber recently used his PIF to purchase 13 pairs of basketball shoes for students at Kahakai Elementary School. (Franz Weber/Courtesy Photo)

  • Kailua-Kona's Franz Weber has volunteered at numerous swim-bike-run events and community organizations for 30 years. Weber recently founded Paying It Forward, a nonprofit designed to raise funds for those in need. (Makena Becker/Hawaii Sport Events)

Sometimes the simplest of emotions can go a long way.

Take for instance the feeling of gratitude. The feeling of being thankful for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible, followed by a readiness to show appreciation by returning the kindness, may seem like a simple gesture — the simple idea of giving and receiving.

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Yet when it’s done repeatedly over and over, hundreds, thousands, heck — millions of times — the never-ending cycle of giving and receiving becomes more than a beautiful masterpiece inspiring kindness. It becomes life changing.

That’s exactly what happened to Kailua-Kona’s Franz Weber, a community sports enthusiast, advocate, and avid cyclist who averages 9,500 miles a year on his bicycle.

Thirty years ago, Weber decided whole-heartedly to make it his lifework to help those in need by sharing his feelings of gratitude for life directly through his service of volunteering.

“I felt that I was really blessed and had everything I needed – financially, personally, lifestyle, happiness — pretty much living a life where everything I needed I had,” he said. “So I thought it was important to share, whether it was knowledge or feeling good or giving any resources, to others in need.”

The number of community-based organizations and local swim-bike-run events Weber has volunteered for over the decades could fill a book. Upon a closer look, many of those organizations have a direct impact on improving the lives of children in foster care, those deemed “at risk,” or victims of abuse and neglect as well as individuals with disabilities.

“In my work as volunteer guardian ad litem at the juvenile court, I had situations where the children, just a few years old, were eating dog food out of the dog bowls because nobody was providing meals in the house, parents were on drugs and out most of the time,” Weber said. “In another case, the parents went to the mainland, and the kids were left behind by themselves, no food in the house, no money, for weeks on their own.

“Providing the basic necessities, including a toy and some personal items, gives the child at least some security, knowing they have a blanket and a pillow to sleep, something to write, and someone who cares.”

Anyone who has met Weber would agree that the 66-year-old is a paragon to an angel. He is the epitome of a thoughtful, caring and generous human being — always positively optimistic when working on ways to improve upon a project, fundraising idea, or how to better serve those in need. So it was only natural for Weber to take his passion to a higher level.

Recently, he created and founded Paying It Forward, a nonprofit organization designed to provide a platform to help raise funds and have it readily available to offer immediate assistance to any child in need and their family, regardless of the situation, and not restricted by any general guidelines.

How did the idea of Paying It Forward begin?

The concept is not a novel one as many may remember seeing the 2000 movie, “Pay It Forward,” a story about a young boy who did three good deeds for others in need. In return, all that the child wanted was that they pass on the good deed to three other people and keep the cycle going.

One good deed might not seem like much, but if everyone did something good for someone else, then the cycle of generosity and kindness can spark one to become a better person, and in turn, a better community. Weber adopted the concept into a personal cause.

“Last year I got 100 $5 bills then stamped each one with the quote ‘Paying It Forward,’” Weber said. “Every time I came across someone who went out of their way to do something nice, I gave them a $5 bill. Most were like, ‘Wow, that is awesome, what a great idea.’ I figured this way I could spread the idea that if you feel good, if you feel life is good to you, then pay it forward.”

Weber said once or twice his $5 bill came back to him.

“I was at the bank and one of the $5 bills that I got had my stamp on it,” he said. “Another time, I was at the store paying for something and when I got change, there was my $5 bill. So it continued all year. When someone was really nice at the store, or whenever I thought someone did something who went above and beyond, I gave them a $5 bill.”

Like a domino effect, people immediately began to give Weber money, supplies and products to help further the cause. After receiving six thousand dollars worth of monetary donations, it became clear that Weber needed to get organized. Thus began his nonprofit in January, Paying It Forward.

“I immediately put it out on Facebook about this company I started and what I want to do for kids and families in need,” Weber said. “My initial goal was to raise $800 but within two weeks I got $3500. It was kind of like people were waiting to give money to something that would do the community some good.

“People were already coming up to me — at Starbucks, before group bike rides — and giving me money because they knew that I was always raising funds for kids in need. Others gave me items, like a couple who were moving back to the mainland donated their bikes for me to give to someone in need. So I was receiving donations from all over.”

About Paying It Forward

Weber clarified that while Paying It Forward is not a 501(c)(3), it is a nonprofit registered through the state.

“I didn’t want to go through a 501(c)(3) because it costs extra money and I don’t want to spend extra money on things other than children,” Weber said. “There are also many restrictions on how you can use the funds received. I want to be unrestricted. I just want to be able to give 100% of the funds to the kids, wherever I want and however I want.

“A 501(c)(3) is when you can make tax-deductible donations and you are regulated in what you can do and what you cannot do. My non-profit is not tax deductible unless you have a business in which you can write if off as a business expense. For me, I can go out right away and immediately purchase items needed for children and families in need.”

How donations help

Weber’s said he is 100% committed to making sure monies he receives gets to the right recipients immediately, and people can also track where and who their monetary donations benefited on his website.

Some of Weber’s recent purchases over the last month include: Chrome Books for foster children to continue distance learning during COVID-19; nearly 100-pairs of varying footwear — basketball shoes, running shoes, track shoes and slippers to students of Kealakehe Elementary, Kahakai Elementary and Honaunau Elementary Schools; and nutritious snack items for children of Kahaluu Housing Project.

Now with the COVID-19 hitting the Big Island, Paying It Forward continues to gain momentum and inspiration from those in the sports community.

Last week Weber was invited as one of two guests to do a podcast with Frank Wechsel, who is the head publisher of Tri Magazine in Germany. The other guest was none other than Germany’s Patrick Lange, a two-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion. Wechsel interviewed Weber on the current COVID-19 situation on the Big Island.

“I was interviewed for 20-minutes and we talked about my Pay It Forward nonprofit,” Weber said. “After hearing why I was raising funds, Wechsel offered to donate all the proceeds of books published by a German lead photographer to my cause. The books sell for 20 euros, and within 36-hours, I received $1600 for the non-profit.”

People who were listening to the podcast interview immediately felt inspired and began sending money to Weber’s nonprofit via pay pal. Steffi Steinberg, a German coach and multiple Kona Ironman finisher, offered to send Weber part of her earnings. Currex Insoles also offered to donate $5 from every insole sold on their website. And locally, Janet Higa-Miller with Bike Works Beach &Sports helped Weber gather 48-goodie bags for the children of Ulu Wini Transitional Housing.

“That just shows how much the triathlete community outside of Kona appreciate, and it is their way to give back to the community that gives so much to them when they are here,” he said. “They are eager to help, they want to show their appreciation and their support. There’s good people allover the world. We are not alone, and triathletes care.

Current Stimulus Project

Weber is currently working on a new “Stimulus Project” utilizing funds received from the federal government.

“Almost everyone will receive a $1,200 check,” Weber said. “There are people who may be set financially and who may not need, this extra money. I began to think that there are children and families out there who may need this money more than I do, and I’m sure there are others who may feel the same.

“My idea is to set up some kind of system where people can not only donate their money, but also choose where they would like to give their money. I also want to make it very public so that people can see who in our community is stepping up to give their extra funds to a specific need or a good cause.”

Weber said people can send it to Paying It Forward, or they can give their money directly to the organization in need whether it be the Salvation Army, Kids Matter, the Kiwanis Club, or the Rotary Club. Weber added providing a public platform is important so the community can see that we have great people living in our community.

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“We live in a great community and people are really good in general. If you give them a chance to do good, almost everyone will. And I feel so blessed to be able to share what I have in a little way, incrementally, just a little bit, but it feels so nice to be able to do that and I know there are others who feel the same.”

For more information or to donate to Paying It Forward visit his website at https://fim20209.wixsite.com/pif-wh or check out Weber’ Facebook page, Paying It Forward — West Hawaii.

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