Hometown Heroes: Franz Weber is Paying it Forward

  • Franz Weber, a longtime Kona resident, started Paying it Forward, which serves as a bridge between various organizations and nonprofits in West Hawaii that help those in need. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

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

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Every day, Franz Weber sees the best in his neighbors. Even in the middle of a pandemic, the longtime Kona resident — who has been involved in philanthropy locally for decades — has witnessed an abundance of altruism as the founder of Paying it Forward West Hawaii.

“A situation like this only brings out the good in people,” said Weber. “If you give them a chance, they really want to give.”

Weber started Paying it Forward in January as a way to organize the increasing amount of donations sent in his direction. Paying it Forward serves as a bridge between various organizations and nonprofits in West Hawaii that help those in need, but are restricted in often very specific ways by red tape.

“Sometimes you go to a 501(c)(3) and ask if they can give money and they say, ‘No, our bylaws don’t allow it, our mission statement doesn’t allow it, the funds are restricted…’” Weber added. “I can spend my money on anything… There’s probably about 30 or 40 organizations here in West Hawaii that do things for kids, but all are specific in what they can do or how they do it. I try to work with as many as I can.”

Since Paying it Forward isn’t registered as a nonprofit, Weber isn’t restricted in continuing to give money wherever a need arises. Often, what’s needed is small, but the donation makes a world of difference. Weber recalled one scenario with a homeless mother where a few bikes meant the difference between losing and keeping her children.

“She got a job and got her kids back, but she had no transportation; the only way to keep her kids was to have transportation,” said Weber. “I got her a bike and the two kids a bike; she was able to keep the kids just because of those bikes. A minor thing, but huge difference.”

Weber himself is an avid cyclist and often donates athletic equipment to local athletes. He started cycling a decade ago on the advice from his chiropractor, and has been volunteering for athletic competitions from Ironman to Lavaman tp various long-distance running races. Weber’s penchant for philanthropy helped him to fit in with the Ironman community.

“What I like about Ironman — especially the group here — is they take very seriously supporting the community,” said Weber. “A few years ago, they made a study and it came up that the Ironman event brings about $46 million to the local community. They give over $100,000 every year to local nonprofits. They really give back.”

Over the years, Weber’s track record has earned the trust of those people who want to make sure their money is going directly to those who need it most. To ensure all the money received goes straight back out to the right cause, Weber covers all the administrative costs associated with Paying it Forward himself.

“I don’t spend any of that money on registration fees, a bank account, PO box; I pay that all separately,” he said. “All the money comes in; it all goes to the kids. I think people like that.”

As Hawaii continues to move forward, Weber is confident the generosity of those around him will remain strong.

“I always say people are good; just give them a chance.”

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Those interested in donating or helping with Paying it Forward can find out more at the organization’s website: www.fim20209.wixsite.com/pif-wh.

Know a Hometown Hero that should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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