Businesses of all types and sizes have experienced tremendous adversity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, imagine facing unprecedented economic and public health challenges while relying solely on volunteers, contributions and grants – even as demand for your services increases.
Hawai‘i charities are confronting mounting obstacles to care for our most vulnerable neighbors and protect our cherished natural and cultural resources.
At Hawaiian Airlines, we are extremely grateful to our 14 local nonprofit partners for their selfless work to improve our communities during a time of incredible hardship. This year, our HawaiianMiles Charity Program will once again participate in Giving Tuesday, held the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. For every mile donated on Dec. 1 by our valued loyal members, we will match up to 100,000 HawaiianMiles to each recipient organization – on top of 500,000 miles we pledge to match annually.
Leading up to Giving Tuesday, Mana‘o will showcase four local charities – starting today with Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i – whose missions align with Hawaiian’s giving pillars of culture, education, environment, and health and human services. We encourage our members to join our campaign – and help us surpass the 35 million Hawaiian Miles donated in 2019.
Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i supports children ages 6-16 years old who have faced adversity in their young lives and experienced the loss of a valuable connection. Its youth-centered program helps children create goals that mentors can help them achieve. Each child and mentor is connected with a staffer who provides ongoing coaching for the youth, training for the volunteer and resources for the family.
Dennis Brown, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i, spoke to us about how his team has adjusted during the pandemic.
How has the COVID – 19 pandemic impacted the work and operations at Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai'i?
First, as with most companies and organizations, for safety reasons we’ve had to switch to remote interactions both for our employees and our Big Brother/Sister Little Brother/Sister matches. We actually gave up our larger office location and now have a very small office where just a handful of staffers work daily. The rest of us telecommute and occasionally go to the office to sign documents, pick-up supplies, use office equipment and the like.
Have you had to adapt and modify how you deliver services?
Yes, and it was a big concern at first. Our one-to-one youth mentoring model is based on the Bigs and Littles getting together on a consistent basis and is most effective when they can meet in-person and enjoy activities together. During shutdown periods, we limited them to only meet virtually via texting, phone calls, face time, Zoom, email and even snail-mailed postcards and letters. An unexpected silver lining to this change was that each pair met even more often than they used to when it was all in-person. In addition, we expanded our services during this time to deliver groceries, prepared meals and household goods to many of our families as well.
What have been the most pressing areas of need and how can people seek your assistance?
Our mission is to help children who face adversity in their lives, such as missing one or both parents, living in a near-poverty situation or having experienced serious trauma, by connecting them with a responsible and caring adult mentor who is supported by our professional staff. The COVID-19 pandemic has created urgent needs among the families we serve who need our support more than ever. We encourage people to reach out to us if they have a child who can benefit from a one-to-one relationship with a caring, responsible adult by calling us at (808) 521-3811, or visiting us at www.bbbshawaii.org to schedule an appointment to speak with someone.
What is the biggest challenge your organization is facing?
Finding creative and effective ways to raise funds in an environment that don’t allow us to hold our special event fundraisers in large in-person gatherings as we used to do. We’ve lost $300,000 in net revenue for 2020 due to not being able to hold our usual gala dinner, golf tournament and bowling events.
How can the community support the work of Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawai‘i?
As always, we can use more volunteers to be Big Sisters and Brothers, though we’ve happily seen some increase in people inquiring to volunteer. Also, being a multi-island service provider, the HawaiianMiles are a huge benefit to us in being able to travel between islands for staff training and meetings. So, we’re grateful to those who can donate miles to us through that program as well.