Kokua for our Ohana brightens a dark year

  • Hilton Waikoloa Distribution – team members socially distanced on Nov. 23, 2020. Courtesy photos

  • Shops at Mauna Lani distribution on Oct. 12, 2020.

  • St. James Episcopal Church receiving the surplus from the Kohala Coast distributions, delivered by staff from Hilton Grand Vacations. Courtesy photo

  • Pohakuloa Marines help with distribution at Queens Marketplace.

  • Hapuna food box contents from the Nov.9, 2020 distribution. 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.

The Kohala Coast Resort Association (KCRA) via its Kokua for our Ohana Program, which received $900,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds from Hawaii County, provided much-needed food packages to more than 19,500 households between September and November when hotels began reopening.

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By supporting the 19,557 households, the assocaition was able to feed an estimated 78,912 Big Island residents during the three-month period via six distributions, according to Stephanie Donoho, administrative director of KCRA.

“During those 6 distributions, we bought 414,958 pounds of local food, at a value of $796,309, keeping those dollars circulating on island, through support of Hawaii Island farmers, ranchers, aquaculture and agricultural providers as well as local distribution companies,” Donoho said. Also supported with surplus items were community food pantries and meal programs in Waimea at Annunciation Catholic Church and St. James Episcopal Church, and in Paauilo at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church.

The Kokua for our Ohana Program kicked off in April, just as the tourism industry ground to a halt as the COVID-19 pandemic took hold. An estimated $1 million was raised to support the effort initially with funding from KCRA member corporations (hotels and resorts), philanthropists and donors who live within the resorts, and community foundation groups (like Ironman Foundation).

Including the CARES Act funds awarded by the county in summer 2020, the total value of the program was $2.25 million, including an “incredible number of volunteer hours,” said Donoho.

Gratefully, all of our resorts reopened in November and December. We had a challenging January, but we saw a big uptick in visitation in February (driven by kama’aina stays over the Valentine’s Day and President’s Day weekend),” she said. “As more and more people are vaccinated, we’re also seeing some good signs of recovery for spring. It will be at least 5 years before we see any return to pre-COVID numbers, but we’re headed in the right direction.

“… 2020 was a very dark year for our industry, but our KCRA Kokua for our Ohana program was a bright light. I am exceptionally proud of our work to serve our community,” she added.

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KCRA members include Mauna Kea Resort (Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and The Westin Hapuna Beach Resort), Mauna Lani Resort (Auberge Mauna Lani and Fairmont Orchid), Waikoloa Resort (Hilton Grand Vacations, Hilton Waikoloa Village and Waikoloa Beach Marriott), Waikoloa Land Co. and Hualalai Resort (Four Seasons Resort). The Kokua for our Ohana program builds upon diverse initiatives KCRA members have been spearheading to support its furloughed employees since the pandemic began.

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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