Hometown Heroes: Waiakea’s Kokua Initiative reaches thousands

  • Ng

  • To date, the Waiakea Kokua Initiative has helped to support more than 30 organizations including the Hawaii Diaper Bank. HDB’s mission is to provide free diapers, wipes, and other basic essentials to Hawaii’s low-income families with young children. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

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.

When it comes to community, there is a Hawaiian saying from Mary Kawena Pukui, “‘A‘ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia” — meaning “no task is too big when done together by all” — a motto for Waiakea water company, which is dedicated to sustainability in all of its practices, including a giving back component to its communities in Hawaii.

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For Waiakea, the Kokua Initiative began as the brand’s landmark program for investing in local community projects and nonprofits; identifying opportunities for the brand to give back to Hawaii and its people through a wide array of charitable programs with a focus on education, addiction, and environmental stewardship.

As the first beverage company in Hawaii to fully compensate each employee to volunteer at least eight hours of their time every month for a variety of local organizations, Waiakea’s Kokua Initiative is a way of living — bringing thoughtful, mindful and community-driven thinking into the folds of the company’s fibers. From pre-K education services to native species restoration and disaster response, Waiakea’s ohana is proud to serve the Hawaiian community.

“Waiakea is a company that is rooted in the community,” said founder Ryan Emmons. “With the Kokua Initiative, our hope is that we can continue to make Waiakea a brand that’s more than just the product. We want to affect people and improve their lives and our community on an individual level. The Kokua Initiative allows us to consider the situations of individual people and families in need so that we can make real, tangible and immediate improvements.”

Waiakea’s Kokua Initiative is built on four core principles: Aloha (showing love, respect and compassion for one another); Laulima (working together to support and uplift another in need, especially those most vulnerable); Malama (taking care of and strengthening one another out of genuine love and kindness); and living Pono (doing right by another). While the Kokua Initiative has historically been an integral part of the brand, COVID-19 brought an entirely new set of needs and challenges to Hawaiians, which only furthered the need for communities to pull together.

“I have never seen a group of people more conscientious toward making ethical business decisions, focusing on conservation, sustainability and taking care of our ‘aina, all while putting people and our planet above profits. The impact that we make on the community level is amazing and I am filled to the brim with positive energy and I am absolutely grateful to be a part of this wonderful service oriented ‘ohana,” said Geoli Nawahiekaluaopele Ng, director of the initiative.

Waiakea rose to the challenge, dedicating the initiative’s programs to helping those that were affected, providing food, masks, necessities, education and health care access. Waiakea is devoted to continuing to contribute to local charities, and families, collaborating with other businesses in Hawaii and organizations in hopes of spreading a little cheer, honoring the values of aloha, and giving service to others in need.

Waiakea’s Kokua Initiative has now helped to support more than 30 organizations including but not limited to OK Farms – Hawaii Eco CSA Food Boxes, Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home, Hale Anuenue Restorative Care, Life Care Center of Hilo, Hawaii Island Adult Care (HAIC), Hui Malama Ola Na ‘Oiwi, Waiakea High School, Waiakea Intermediate School, Waiakea Elementary School, Waiakeawaena Elementary School, Pahoa High and Intermediate School, The Food Basket, Hawaii Food Bank, Hope Services Hawaii Homeless Shelters, Hawaii Diaper Bank, and Salvation Army Family Intervention Services. To date, the initiative has helped impact the lives of more than 50,000 people in Hawaii in need.

“We are only getting started,” added Emmons. “There is still a lot of work to do but we are dedicated to doing it. We want the Kokua Initiative to be a beacon for those in Hawaii in need — a place of trust, support, and love. The Kokua Initiative is a community devoted to giving back to its community and we are excited to continue to expand our charitable impact on the people of Hawaii in ways that truly matter.”

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For more information on Waiakea’s Kokua Initiative, visit https://waiakeasprings.com/pages/kokua

Know a Hometown Hero who 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.

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