MAY 2022

‘Iole Land Donated to Hawai’i Community Foundation

By Toni Withington

Hawai’i Community Foundation (HFC), one of the largest nonprofit funding agencies in the state, this month announced the donation of approximately 2,400 acres of land in the ‘Iole ahupua’a by the New Moon Foundation.

Plans are underway for turning the sweeping holdings from the forest reserve to the ocean into a living laboratory to be used as a model for how indigenous practices can help improve Hawaiʻi’s energy and food security, according to Micah Kane, President and CEO of HFC.

The project will bring together academic experts, Native Hawaiian practitioners, community members, students and government leaders to develop sustainable solutions rooted in ancestral knowledge and indigenous practices. It will include partners at the University of Hawaiʻi and Arizona State University.

To steward the land and the program, HFC formed an organization last December called simply ‘Iole. Interim CEO of ʻIole Alapaki Nahale-a is already on-site overseeing operations, staffing and beginning the process to develop the mission, vision and values for the nonprofit – a key element being community discussions and program development.

“We have the opportunity to restore this special place back to abundance, much like our ancestors before us did,” Nahale-a said in a statement announcing the donation. “As we listen to ʻIole and do what is right for the land, it is my hope that will be inspired to take responsibility for their own place and share in the belief that humans can live as a healthy part of earth’s ecosystem.”

Joining the announcement, Thuy Nguyen Fujimoto, President and co-founder of the New Moon Foundation; Bennett Dorrance Jr., Vice-President and co-founder of the New Moon Foundation; and Jason Fujimoto, President of the Kohala Institute, shared the following in a joint statement: “Our vision is for ‘Iole to be a place and values-based living classroom that practices and models collaboration for the benefit of our Hawaiʻi and global communities. We believe and trust in the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and its partners to bring new capacity to ʻIole and carry the important responsibility of this place into its next chapter.”

New Moon purchased the multiple parcels of land from the Bond Estate between 1998 and 2007. The donation includes 380 acres makai of Akoni Pule Highway between Ainakea and Lighthouse Road (Kauhola Point). The rest reaches mauka of the highway and includes Kalahikiola Church, the old Boys School, the renovated Girls School and a conference center, as well as various agricultural enterprises.

The lineup of players in the new effort reads like a Who’s Who of leading Hawaiian movers. Micah Kane was named CEO of the Year in 2020 by the Hawaiʻi Business Magazine for his work at HCF. Besides being head of the Department of Hawaiian Homes (DHHL) for six years, he is a current trustee of Kamehameha Schools. 

Alapaki Nahale-a was chair of DHHL, a member of the University of Hawai`i Board of Regents, president of the Hawaiʻi Island Charter School Network and is Kamehameha School’s Senior Director of Community Engagement and Resources for Hawai’i Island.

In an interview, Nahale-a said connecting to existing environmental and agricultural organizations in North Kohala is a first step in the formation of programs at ʻIole.

“Foremost we want to engage local families with a focus on education, enhanced agricultural programs and job opportunities,” he said. “This includes preservation programs along the coast.”

Micah Kane takes a broader view of what ʻIole can do. “The world needs authentic solutions to our planet’s most urgent issues, from food security to climate change, to ensure a sustainable future for all people. Solutions that combine ancestral knowledge and indigenous practices with revolutionary science will produce a culturally sound framework that protects the well-being of both people and place.”

“Through our collaborative work at ʻIole, Hawaiʻi has the opportunity to continue to lead the fight against climate change and affect social issues impacting communities here, and across the globe.”

HCF, UH and ASU have committed to jointly raising $6.75 million for the operations of ʻIole for the first three years of the project. The funding allows ʻIole to focus on properly implementing programming and creating impact without being burdened by financial stress or constraint.

UH President David Lassner said, “We are excited at this opportunity to collaboratively envision a 21st century ahupuaʻa. ʻIole can be a place grounded in Hawaiian values and knowledge where we are jointly committed to the innovation and courage necessary to integrate traditional and modern ways of learning, doing and living.”

“The ʻIole ahupua’a is the epitome of potential for sustainable action and community resilience here on Hawaiʻi Island,” said Mayor Mitch Roth. “Our administration has committed to fostering a Hawaiʻi Island where our keiki can thrive and succeed for generations to come, and in that, we are excited to support ʻIole and its partnering organizations in every way possible.”

Bond Library Update

By Christine Richardson

On May 2, members of the Bond Library Restoration team met with our Kupuna at the Kohala Senior Club. How wonderful to gather again in the old courthouse with so many great folks!

The Co-chairs for the project, Sharon Hayden and Christine Richardson, were delighted to share updates on the progress of the Bond Library Restoration project. Much behind-the-scenes work has been going on since we last checked in with the community in November. Our pro bono contractor, John Metzler, has created a timeline, cost estimates and full scope of work. Bill McCowatt, our pro bono building design and planner, has completed all the drawings and designs and submitted them to the County for our repair permits. We have contracted with a very skilled and enthusiastic restoration architect, Angel Ayon, who is consulting with Bill on all the historic details. Meanwhile, Christine and Sharon have been writing grant proposals and talking with community members about ways to raise funds and provide opportunities to help.

In December 2021, the Historic Hawaiʻi Foundation awarded the project a $100,000 grant to start the work. Most recently, the project was awarded $200,000 from the State of Hawaiʻi Grant-in-Aid program. We want to thank Representative Tarnas and Senator Inouye for their support of this request, and Susan Maddox of Friends of the Future, who is our fiscal sponsor for large grants. 

There are currently more grant proposals in the pipeline, which will hopefully contribute to the estimated $1 million in costs to complete the repairs for this building. The goal is to make it structurally sound and safe for occupancy by mid-2023 and have it last another 100 years!

A great question was asked during our talk story: “What will happen in the building when it is repaired?” The working plan is for a Kohala Heritage Center, which will be a both a gathering place and a repository for artifacts, historical documents and photos, books, art and other visual experiences. 

Sharon Hayden is leading this Phase II effort. Here youth and kūpuna volunteers will share their knowledge and respect for the history of Kohala with residents and visitors alike. 

This site will be utilized as a meeting place for local nonprofits, school groups, clubs and other small group gatherings. This Heritage Center will help to bring together the many diverse groups of people that make up the rich tapestry of North Kohala. Another popular concept is to incorporate a media lab that would focus on communications, providing state-of-the art training for our youth and all interested residents. This way, the Center will also be seen as a place that not only focuses on Kohala’s history but looks to the future. Students will be able to record “talk story” sessions, collecting “Living Treasures” collections for the archive.

The Kohala Heritage Center will also help to stimulate the local economy by providing visitors a place to learn about the many historical aspects of this district.  Students will learn valuable communication skills and gain experience through talking about Kohala while building a “pride of place” for their community. 

This Heritage Center will fit well with the historic County Courthouse, the old Bank of Hawaiʻi and Nanbu buildings and the most popular destination, the original statue of King Kamehameha I directly across the street.

Work on the building will commence when permits are granted and enough funding has been secured to get started, hopefully later this Fall. Our contractor, John Metzler, states the building’s foundation and frame are strong, well built and in good shape. 

Once they get going, the work should only take eight to ten months. The team will continue to find ways to raise funds for both the building and the Heritage Center as well as build a committee to design the displays and programming. Please let us know how you can help! 

Tax deductible donations may be sent to the North Kohala Community Resource Center (NKCRC) at P.O. Box 519 Hawi, HI 96719. Please be sure to designate the Bond Library. You can also send us an email at or leave a message at 808-889-0169 with ideas or ways to help us reach this important milestone. We would love to hear from you.

The End of Power Outages? Or a Reduction in Them?

By Toni Withington

Hawaiian Electric is planning to build the State’s first microgrid based on battery storage here in Kohala. 

The microgrid is designed to allow power to flow when outages occur on the single transmission line that connects North Kohala to the main power grid. 

Outages can occur while the utility rebuilds the 70-year-old transmission line and during maintenance or emergencies like car accidents or fallen tree. The microgrid was designed to allow Hawaiian Electric to serve the community when outages occur on the single 24-mile transmission line that connects North Kohala to the main power grid, but outages are expected to be fewer and shorter when they occur.

The overall project is unique because Hawaiian Electric would own and operate the microgrid controller but contract a third-party to guild and own a Battery Energy Storage System (BESS) to be the controller’s energy source.

Batteries installed next to the Hāwī Substation would be capable of serving Kohala’s 2,000 customers with stored energy when the line is accidentally broken, but also during a planned outages during the conversion of the old radial line to an upgraded new line.

Hawaiian Electric, formerly known on this island as HELCO, has submitted its plans to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) in the form of a request for proposals (RFP) that, if approved by the PUC, will be put out to bid for the battery portion of the project. 

The contracted company will own and operate the battery, while the utility will continue to own and operate the microgrid controller and maintain all other functions of distribution. 

If the project is approved, the microgrid could be completed in November 2024, the company predicts. The rebuild of the 24-mile transmission line would be done over multiple years with the batteries taking up the slack.

Details of the plan can be reviewed at While the PUC reviews the request, any stakeholder can make comments on the plan by emailing or entering them on the PUC’s website:

The 2008 North Kohala Community Development Plan talks extensively about how to improve the reliability of electrical service in the district, which has a long history of unplanned and planned outages. 

Hawaiian Electric was then in the process of designing a second line over the Kohala Mountain. Another plan was to install a diesel generator as a backup. But through many years of talking with Kohala residents and organizations, the alternative of a microgrid with battery storage became the preferred choice.

Because the microgrid solution is new and the complexity of third-party ownership of the BESS, the company hired Entura, an Australia-based power consulting firm, to provide guidance on technical requirements and purchasing and contracting details. 

Entura has expertise with designing small Pacific Island microgrid systems that use renewable energy and storage systems.

The RFP calls for a standalone BESS with 5 megawatts (MW) / 22 megawatt hours (MWh) of energy storage capacity that can be integrated with the microgrid controller system. 

The BESS microgrid controller is expected to seamlessly transition between grid-connected and local modes. 

How seamless the transition is between loss of the main grid and transfer to the batteries is the big question. The batteries will be capable of powering all Kohala for an eight-hour workday during construction of the new line.

The microgrid controller and battery would be built on 1.207 acres next to the utility’s Hāwī Substation on Akoni Pule Highway. The company has been granted an easement on the land from Surety Kohala Corp. but is in negotiations to purchase the site.

One thing not spelled out in the RFP is the role that the Hāwī Wind Farm will play in the microgrid. In a statement to Kohala Mountain News, a spokesman for the company said: “Hawaiian Electric met with Hāwī Renewable Development representatives, and it was decided that the microgrid project would not be tied to the wind farm. The energy produced by the wind farm is sent to the main electric grid that distributes power around the island. 

“An amended power purchase contract between Hawaiian Electric and Hāwī Renewable Development was submitted to the PUC for approval in December 2021.

 Unlike the existing contract, the amended contract is not linked to volatile oil prices that currently are impacting electric rates.”

Last summer the wind farm submitted its own application to the PUC for upgrading its turbines.

Land Board Gives Māhukona Land Purchase a Boost – Twice

By Toni Withington

The State Board of Land and Natural Resources (BLNR) is the latest government agency to lend it’s stamp of approval to the purchase 642 acres of private coastal land at Māhukona to be preserved from development. It did so twice in a month.

The land board voted unanimously on April 22 to approve its role as subgrant to federal funding tentatively lined up by a $4 million U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition Grant. The Forestry and Wildlife Division of the DLNR will become partners with the federal agency. 

This grant joins a conservation easement purchase agreement with the County of Hawaiʻi to provide $8 million for the preservation of land that was once zoned for resort, residential and golf course development.

Then on May 13 the board also authorized a $3 million grant through the state’s Legacy Land Preservation Program. Both grants received high marks in their competition for funding. The Fish and Wildlife grant was among only six projects funded in the country, and the Legacy Land allocation was voted the top position in the ranking of projects by the Legacy Land Commission in March.

Hawai`i Island Land Trust, also known as HILT, has been brokering the sale and will hold title to the land for Na Kalai Waʻa, the group that stewards the navigational heiau and drydocks the voyaging canoe Makaliʻi on the land, along with other Kohala groups.

The trust and the current private landowner have already signed an agreement to purchase the land.

At the April meeting Shae Kamakala, director of ‘āina protection and general counsel for HILT, listed the endangered animals, plants and yellow-faced bee that qualified the land for protection of endangered species by the Recovery Land grant. She said the Koʻa Holomoana heiau is still actively used to teach navigation and the kūpuna of Kohala families are showing how to steward the large land holding, owned until 2012 by Surety Kohala Corp.

At the May meeting David Penn, administrator of the Legacy Land Preservation Program, told land board members the $3 million allocation ties for the largest grant ever made by the State’s program and is also the first to have a conservation easement from the County of Hawaiʻi.

Just before announcing the unanimous vote, board chairperson Suzanne Case said: “It is a beautiful spot, and it is a very rich spot, and as you can tell we’re all very happy that you’re able to do this land protection project and work with the community closely on caring for it.”

The Māhukona Navigational and Cultural Preserve is part of a coastal ecosystem encompassing the ancient Kohala Field System between Lapakahi State Historical Park and Kapaʻa Park, both properties owned by the State. It is home to 175 ancient cultural sites including four heiau, agricultural and housing complexes, shrines, burials, and the ala loa. In addition, there are remnants of the historic harbor such as the railroad terminal, sugar and ranching activities.

In a statement, Hawaii Land Trust said it is working with the Kohala community and Na Kalai Waʻa to ensure the land remains undeveloped, available for public coastal trail access and becomes an active place of Hawaiian cultural practice.

“We look forward to this once in a lifetime opportunity to protect and ensure generational stewardship of such a special place,” Kamakaala said.

Māhukona Park Workday Set for June 5

By Toni Withington

Mālama Māhukona is calling for those who love Māhukona Park to show up on June 5 for a workday and the first of many idea-gathering session for what to include within the new park facilities.

With its status as official Friends of the Park, the group has the go ahead from the Department of Parks and recreation (P&R) to do some brush and dead wood removal around the condemned pavilion and plan the location of some hearty dryland vegetation to hold the raw soil down.

Participants will gather at 8 a.m. in the parking lot. Information on how to help move forward the planning process for the park will be available along with water and snacks. Wear sturdy shoes and bring gloves. 

For more information call Noelani Salis at (808) 480-1829, Cheryl Rocha at (808) 345-9738 or Lydia Zuniga at (808) 443-8361.

Nine members of Mālama Māhukona gathered on May 11 for their monthly meeting with Michelle Hiraishi, deputy director of P&R, to advance community participation in the planning and construction of the new park. The 70-year-old pavilion, the only amenity in the park, was condemned over three years ago.

Hiraishi said the county has awarded Engineering Partners of Hilo a contract to plan the removal of the pavilion and the chemical hazards identified in and around it. The actual remove will be subject to competitive bidding contract after the engineering plan is accepted. 

P&R has repeatedly said $400,000 is available for the removal of the structure and the construction of a platform as a gathering place until the new pavilion is built. Hiraishi said the platform will not necessarily be in the location of the condemned pavilion. The location is open for discussion.

The new park is expected to cost about $4 million, and she encouraged the Kohala community to support the P&R designation of that amount on the County’s Capital Improvement Budget coming before the County Council soon. She also said P&R will be getting funding to hire a grant writer to seek matching funds for all park improvement projects.

Besides planning the park structure and landscaping, several Mālama members suggested they could help P&R gather documents and material necessary for the permitting process, which along with the new infrastructure could make up half the cost of the new park. Members repeated their strong recommendation that work on the park be contracted to Kohala businesses.

Homes For Kohala: Affordable Housing Survey Results

By Beth Thoma Robinson

In the November issue of Kohala Mountain News, the North Kohala Affordable Housing Group, a sponsored project of the North Kohalal Community Resource Center, announced a survey intended to update the results of the housing survey conducted for the Community Development Plan in 2007. The earlier survey had 75 responses, and 30 percent of those said they were in needed of housing that was more affordable than market prices at that time. Another 44 percent had a household member in need. 

Thanks to the ease of online survey technology and the reach of social media, the recent survey currently has over 200 responses and clearly demonstrates what we all know: the situation has gotten worse, not better, in the past 12 years.

Updated Survey Clearly Demonstrates the Need Has Increased

With over 200 responding, 79 percent of those surveyed are in need of housing, and 68 percent said a family member is also in need. Almost all of those who took the survey currently live in Kohala; 39 percent were born right here and another 31 percent have lived here at least 16 years. People with Kohala roots want to stay here in Kohala.

The biggest need continues to be among young adults, and young families who want to raise their children here.

In the 2008 CDP, over half of those surveyed said for them “affordable” would be under $250,000. In 2022, 65 percent of responses said less than $300,000 and another 29 percent could go up to $400,000. That means there are no homes listed for sale in Kohala in the “affordable” range for local residents.

What Kind of Housing Does Our Community Want

The 2008 CDP estimated a need of at least 600-700 additional affordable homes, and reflected the communityʻs desire that it be integrated into existing neighborhoods. How can we go about creating a supply of affordable homes?

There are various options in principle, so the survey asked people to rank their preferences. The most popular option would be another phase of the self-help housing (80 percent ranked in top two choices). 

Next popular was to buy an existing home. Only about 30 percent of those answering were open to a land trust or leasehold situation, in which another entity owns the land and the resident buys only the house. 

The least popular option was renting. Only 23 percent ranked that choice as number 1 or 2, perhaps reflecting the recent experience many have had of their rental housing being sold to a buyer who intends to live in it.

These results, including the demographic data collected, are being shared with our County and State officials as well as with affordable housing developers and non-profits such as land trusts and Habitat for Humanity.

Building Momentum for Housing Solutions

The Affordable Housing Group solicited donations, primarily from real estate and mortgage professionals and companies, to create a professionally produced film illustrating the need. You can view the film on our new website, on our Facebook page, or on YouTube. Many thanks also to the Keyes and Vaefaga-Tinnan ʻohanas for telling their stories on camera.

The Affordable Housing Group will also have a table at the Kohala Reunion in July. So if you have yet to take the survey, want to talk about next steps to get qualified to buy a home, or want to volunteer your time or even make a donation, please come see us there.

Kamehameha Day Celebration

Mark your calendar!

On June 11, North Kohala celebrates the birth of our king 

with the following schedule:

7:00 a.m. – Lei drop-off at the statue.

8:00 a.m. – Lei-draping of the statue.

9:00 a.m. – Parade begins at Kohala School complex.

The Kohala Kamehameha Committee has decided to not hold a ho‘olaule‘a this year but hopes to be able to bring that component back in 2023.Come prepared to buy your 2022 version of Kamehameha Day shirts to benefit Nā Kupuna o Kohala.** Note that Akoni Pule Highway will be closed at 9:00 a.m. from Honomakau through the Hospital Road. Please adjust your morning accordingly.

Mahalo and we hope to see you there!

The Kamehameha Day Celebration is a sponsored project of the North Kohala Community Resource Center and this year is funded by the King Kamehameha Day Celebration Commission and the Hawai‘i Community Foundation West Hawai‘i Fund.

LETTER: Mahalo from St. Augustine’s

By Lani Bowman

St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church would like to thank the many community volunteers who created a very successful “Fill a Bag for $5” on May 7. We would especially like to thank volunteers from Hawaiʻi Community Federal Credit Union, Hāmākua-Kohala Health Center, and Tutu & Me Home Visiting ʻOhana, and hope to hold a similar event prior to the start of school in August. A big mahalo also to the over 150 people who came to fill their bags, share in fun fellowship with others, purchase our Thrift Shop extras and receive free giveaways! 

We are proud to say not one bag went to the landfill. Two carloads filled to the brim were taken to share with a Micronesian community in South Kona. For over 30 years, St. Augustine’s Thrift Shop has served the people of Kohala. 

It has provided opportunities for affordable shopping right here in Kohala. It has also helped our environment and landfill by providing a location for people to take their unneeded, gently used items. We encourage community members to continue to shop and drop off items. 

Please adhere to the drop off times and days to help our small staff of dedicated volunteers to be able to get items ready for sale. Please only drop off items you yourself would purchase.

LETTER: NKGP’s 1st Annual Easter Egg Hunt: Wet weather didn’t keep the kids away!

By Chelsea Ching LaFrance

On April 15, the North Kohala Golf Park hosted its first annual Easter Egg Hunt. 

Even though we had only a few weeks of planning time, the event was a success. With the help of the North Kohala Community Resource Center, the County of Hawaii Parks and Recreation team, Roots Skate Park and many other small businesses, the thought-to-be-small event turned out to have approximately 120 eager-to-hunt keiki. The event was great but made us realize that we need more eggs next year. The 1,000 stuffed eggs were not nearly enough, and the wet weather didn’t allow for us to wait till dark, but that didn’t stop the smiles. 

Seven keiki participated in our “most creative” Easter egg basket and they really put in the effort. All walked away with generous gift cards from Keauhou Shopping Center, Gill’s Lanai and King’s View Café. Even with the wet weather, many ʻohana stuck around for a free sweet treat from Super Cute Cotton Candy, which took the time to make mini treats on a stick to give out. 

We hope that with all we learned from this event, next year’s hunt will be even better. More eggs are a must, and fingers crossed for dry weather. 

It was amazing how many great community members, companies, restaurants and programs near and far chipped in to help hide eggs, stuff goodie bags, and donate prizes and funds to purchase goodies. 

We would like to thank all those who came out to enjoy doing something with their keiki and a huge mahalo to all those who gave their time and effort to help make this happen!

Hawai‘i State House of Representatives Update From the Desk of District 7 Representative David Tarnas

Aloha. The Legislature has completed its 2022 session, approving and sending 343 bills to the Governor. 

Overall, it was a successful legislative session in which we addressed long-standing economic issues and provided unprecedented levels of financial support for our working families, Native Hawaiians, public schools, and kūpuna. The State’s improved economic outlook and federal funding allocations allowed us to make these significant investments in our community while also providing tax relief for residents and committing nearly $1 billion to the State’s budget reserves. 

This month, I would like to highlight some of the biggest accomplishments benefitting working people and families, affordable housing, native Hawaiians, public schools and kūpuna.

The Legislature increased the minimum wage and made the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and refundable. This wage increase and tax credit will help many working families in our community. To reduce the negative impact of increased wage expenses on small businesses, the final bill spread out the wage increase, so it begins this October and further increases are staggered over several years. In addition, the Legislature approved a tax rebate of up to $300 per resident.

The Legislature took significant steps this session to invest in critical programs that will help alleviate the rising cost of living and increase the housing inventory for those who need it most. We passed a package of bills that appropriate nearly $1 billion to help the homeless, very-low income, moderate-income, and working families with rent relief and housing, and to provide funds to develop more affordable housing. We appropriated $300 million into the Rental Housing Revolving Fund to develop rental housing for working individuals and families. We funded $15 million to extend the ʻOhana Zones pilot program until 2026, which will provide temporary shelter, permanent transitional housing, and medical and social support services for houseless people. We allocated $45 million for the Dwelling Unit Revolving Fund to facilitate development of infrastructure for affordable housing. And we provided participants in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families programs up to $500 per month for rental assistance, which will directly help working families be able to afford rent.

In landmark legislation passed this session to fulfill the State’s public trust responsibilities to Native Hawaiians, we appropriated $600 million to allow the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) to build more homes, buy more land, and provide rental and mortgage assistance to Native Hawaiians on the DHHL waitlist. The Legislature additionally provided $10 million for homestead services, $20 million for DHHL lot development, and $35 million of federal funds for new homestead development. And we paid for the settlement in a class action suit of Native Hawaiians who sued the State for the time they spent on the waitlist for getting a parcel on Hawaiian Home Lands. In addition, we increased the annual payments of public land revenues to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) from $15.1 million to $21.5 million and made this retroactive, resulting in a $64 million payment to OHA. 

Public education is a top priority for our community. Because of that public support, the legislature was able to make major progress supporting our public school teachers by passing a package of bills that increased salaries for public school teachers; provided additional pay for professional development; and provided funds for higher salaries for difficult-to-fill teacher positions, including Hawaiian language teachers, special education teachers, and teachers in rural schools. We also provided funds to build new preschools or renovate existing public school classrooms to convert them to preschools.

We passed numerous bills that will benefit our kūpuna. This includes providing adult dental services for those on Medicaid, appropriating more funds for the kūpuna care program, establishing the Hawaiʻi Retirement Savings Program for people who don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement plan, extending the driver’s license renewal period for licensees who are between 72-80 years of age from two years to four years, and providing additional funding for aging and disability resource centers in each county.

Next month, I will highlight the successful legislation and funding related to natural resources, environmental stewardship and climate change that were priorities of the House Water and Land Committee, which I lead as Committee Chairperson. I will also highlight the Capital Improvement Projects in our community and funding provided through the Grants-in-Aid program to organizations in North Kohala, including the Bond Memorial Library restoration project and HIP Ag’s programs in Kohala for farmer training, youth education, food hub infrastructure, Kūpuna Box distribution, and the farm-to-school food system. 

Mahalo for your support and advice this legislative session. I am grateful to serve as your State Representative and welcome hearing from you by email at and by phone at 808-586-8510. You can also sign up for my e-newsletter at and access the archive with past issues for your information.

County Council Update From the Desk of District 9 Councilmember Tim Richards

Aloha! Once again, it is time for the monthly update from our office.

Agriculture and Kohala – Food for Thought

One of the big concerns that was highlighted throughout the pandemic was the lack of food security/food self-reliance in our state. Approximately 90 percent of the food we consume is imported. Using a conservative national number of about 3.5 pounds of food per person per day, our state consumes approximately five million pounds of food daily. Tourism adds another 20 percent, or one million pounds. At 200,000 people, Hawai‘i Island’s population is one seventh of the State’s. This translates to our island consuming about 750,000 pounds of food each day. With tourism, that number is approximately 900,000 pounds. Since around 500,000 pounds of food is grown within the state each day, that’s a difference of 400,000 pounds a day. This highlights the challenge for our state and its food self-reliance, but also the potential opportunity.

Considering Kohala. 

Depending on how you want to measure Kohala, the entire district outside the valleys down to approximately ʻUpolu Point is about 20,000 acres. Of this total, perhaps 3,500 acres could be considered potential for agricultural and food production. Strictly as a tabletop conversation, the production of pounds of food per acre varies widely depending on what commodity we are discussing. 

By no means is this a suggestion or an implied direction for Kohala. This is only for scale of agriculture purposes in comparison to an area we all know well. 

To put some commodities in context for Hawai‘i in per-year estimates, see the adjacent sidebar.

The point of this is to highlight the potential of our agriculture. A conservative estimate would be perhaps 7,500 pounds of “agricultural product” per acre, per year. (This is comparable to average corn production in the United States). For Kohala, 2,000 acres could mean 15 million pounds of food produced annually. Given that our island consumes 750,000 pounds a day, that would be an equivalency of three weeks of food. 

Hawai‘i Island has enviable tracts of land and water resources potentially usable in agriculture. We have well-established markets in need. This informational piece is not to articulate a plan per se, but to highlight what it truly means and what it will truly take to feed our community to strive towards food security. 

Next month: The economy of agriculture and irrigation. 

As always, it continues to be a great privilege to serve as your Councilman and I look forward to working toward solutions in 2022 and beyond. 

Acres harvestedProduction (1,000 pounds)
2019: 3202019: 4,140
2020: 2202020: 4,000
2021: 1752021: 3,210
YIELD: Approximately 18,000 pounds/acre
Acres harvestedProduction (1,000 pounds)
2012: 4002012: 3,400
2016: 3102016: 3,500
2017: 3502017: 3,700
2018: 3102018: 3,000
YIELD: Approximately 8,500 pounds/acre (2012)
YIELD: Approximately 9,600 pounds/acre (2018)
Data gathered from the Hawai‘i ‘Ulu Producers  Cooperative established in 2016
TreesProduction  (1,000 pounds)
2018: 20002018: 71
YIELD: Approximately 20,000 pounds per acre
Hawai‘i is third largest producer in the U.S.
2019: 8202019: 1640
YIELD: Approximately 2,000 pounds/acre  (10,000 pounds/acre reported potential)

Lei-Maker Fundraises to Help Fix Kohala Pool, Gets Unexpected Update

Story and photo by Libby Leonard

Back when lei-maker and healer Maile Spencer Napoleon was growing up in North Kohala, there weren’t that many places to swim that seemed safe. Even if there were, she was not allowed to play in the ocean. She was allowed in the town pool, though, where she formed many beloved memories. 

When Kohala’s community pool in Kamehameha Park was closed down in the fall of 2021 due to numerous issues and what appeared to be an enormous price tag to fix, she knew that Kohala was going to be missing one of its greatest resources. 

Unsure if anybody was doing anything to fix it, after being approached to sell her beautiful lei at the farmer’s market in Hāwī to raise funds, she agreed immediately, and decided to create Swim For Health to raise money and awareness to help fix the pool. Despite the hefty price tag, which was initially reported as $4.5 million for the County to fix the pool, she said she would keep showing up every Saturday to raise money until she didn’t have to anymore.  

“Raising money for the pool, I really think for me, it’s to cue in on the children, where they have something to do and some place to go to have fun and also exercise,” said Maile.

When Napoleon was a teacher during the plantation era, her students had a lot of needs, because their parents did not make enough money to cover them. Napoleon had the children make things like Christmas ornaments out of items from nature, which she would then sell to others only for their loose change to raise money for the kids. She called this “Small Change.” 

Napoleon, who has always brought together so many factions of the community, hoped that it would be the community that would come together and fix the pool on their own, without the County, true Kohala style.

What Napoleon didn’t know was that around the same time she decided to do her fundraiser, her hopeful vision was unfolding. 

According to head lifeguard Spencer Coakley, retired pool technician Gary Tocatlian – who has fifty years of experience and wants to give back to the community – volunteered his time and labor to do pool assessments and upcoming fixes. It’s possible that the pool only needs a pump. He said that they will eventually have a work party to clean the pump room to prepare for the fix. 

The pool might be able to be open by the end of the year, which is a welcome surprise, since many expected it to be years before it could be of use.

Coakley credits his father, Jeff, for making everything happen with the group Friends of Kohala Pool, where he was constantly interacting with others to find solutions. 

“The pool is recreational, but also a healing center,” said Jeff Coakley.

Jeff Coakley who has been a Senior Lifeguard for the County of Hawai’i, swim coach, and instructor among several other things aquatic, said that not only do many people with physical ailments use the pool for rehab, but the physical therapy offices actually refer them there. 

He added that going through the County and all of its red tape with permits for hired workers would’ve held back progress for a long time, but that the County, who is in support of Coakley’s efforts, said that as long as they can get volunteers to do the work, they can move ahead with their plans without any issues. 

There still might be some hurdles with Parks and Rec because of their codes and procedures, said Tocatlian, but they are all confident they will be able to overcome them.

They think the pump might run around $9,000, but they are unsure what the final cost will be. After they determine that price, there will be additional fundraisers run by Rick Cohen, Robin Woodley, Andy Longpre, and Bill and Barb Davis. 

Until the final assessment is made to put those fundraisers into action, you can donate and purchase lei from Aunty Maile at the Hāwī farmers market on Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 12 noon.

Upcoming Citrus and Sweet Potato Education: Seed to Market Agricultural Initiative

By Maya Parish

The 2022 Seed to Market agricultural initiative – a group effort between Kohala Food Hub, HIP Agriculture and Kahua Paʻa Mua geared toward building food security in Kohala – is continuing full steam ahead. The third free community workshop in the Seed to Market series will be held on Saturday, June 25, at the Kohala Village HUB Barn from 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. 

The third workshop will be about the cultivation of Citrus and ʻUala (sweet potato) with educators Ken Love (for citrus) and Kehaulani Marshall (for sweet potato). The workshop will share practical knowledge about the crops, including how to space them, prepare the planting area, plant, water, maintain, control pests, harvest and sell any excess harvest beyond your family’s needs locally through Kohala Food Hub. A planting demonstration will conclude the workshop for hands-on and visual learners. A heavily discounted grafted citrus tree sale, and a lunch by donation featuring citrus and ʻuala, will take place after the workshop between 12 noon and 1 p.m. 

Ken Love, founder of Hawai’i Tropical Fruit Growers and affectionately known as the “Hawaiʻi Fruit Guru”, is a well-known figure on island championing the production and consumption of locally grown fruit and vegetables, with a focus on not letting fruit that grows here go to waste. Kehau Marshall is a part of the organization Ulu Mau Puanui located in leeward Kohala, where they are learning about The Kohala Dryland Agricultural Field System. Interested parties may visit their website to learn more at

The first free Seed to Market community workshop on dwarf coconuts, featuring educators Trent Grant, David Fuertes, and Dash Kuhr, was held February 19, and the second on kalo (taro) and ʻawa (kava) featuring educator Kaʻiana Runnels was held April 9. Over 130 participants have joined in person thus far, and many others have attended live on Zoom and/or requested the links to the class videos. The links to the recordings of both classes can be found at Over 70 dwarf coconut trees have been purchased at deep discounts by community members, ample kalo (taro) starts have been given away, and a number of ʻawa (kava) starts have also been purchased helping to build more food security for our region.

The June 25 citrus and sweet potato workshop will also be live streamed on Zoom, and a link to the virtual class will be sent to anyone who requests it. To RSVP to the in-person or virtual class, please email

Families, individuals, and other community organizations are invited to join in with this ongoing year-long project. If you have excess produce, herbs or starch crops to sell, acreage you want to plant out with tree and companion crops, wish to buy more freshly harvested locally grown produce for your family, or wish to volunteer, please email

Subsequent free community workshops will cover the practical step by step process of planting and maintaining crops that tend to do well and have a reliable market in Kohala, such as ʻulu (breadfruit), maiʻa (banana), and ʻolena (turmeric). 

Kohala Reunion 2022

By Lynda Wallach

The Kohala Reunion is less than two months away and the sense of excitement and anticipation continues to grow. Already more than 1,200 people have joined the Kohala Reunion 2022 Facebook page and 13 Kohala High School graduating classes have reserved tent space. The Reunion Committee is working hard making the final arrangements for the entertainment, games, ceremonies, contests, keiki activities, tours and everything else that promises to make this Fourth of July weekend a time for all to remember.

The Lim Family will open the event at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, July 2, beginning a day filled with incredible entertainment. Over 50 dancers from three local hula hālau will start things off with a program of kahiko (traditional) and ‘auana (modern) followed by two hulas presented by the students of Aunty Margaret Tablit. The day continues with performances by Mila Polevia, Cole Fuertes and Kainani Kahaunaele and ends with dancing to the music of the Jarican Express. 

The Sunday line-up is just as exciting, beginning with Tita Alcoran and continuing with John Keawe, David Gomes, and Nino Kaai. Dancing Sunday night will be to the music of I’land Boiz and North Shore.

Also on Sunday, Ryukyukoku Matsuri Daiko (RMD) will perform Okinawan taiko and the Kohala Hongwanji will demonstrate a bon dance in the afternoon, with everyone having a chance to participate. There will be a keiki section all day on each of the three days with a bouncy castle and face painting. 

Shay VanZandt and the 4-H will oversee roping practice each day and the first rounds of kickball and basketball-HORSE competition will take place on Sunday. The championship rounds for tug-o-war, kickball, basketball-HORSE and roping will all be on Monday. If you are planning to put a team together for any of those, now is the time to start thinking about it.

For those who want to showcase their cooking skills there will be dessert contests (coconut milk, guava and sweet potato) and local favorites (dried fish, smoke meat and sausage) each day. Applications will be sent to those that checked it off on their application. Extra will be posted on HCFCU bulletin board. Completed application should be sent to Kohala Reunion 2022, PO Box 804, Kapaau HI 96755.

Bill Wong will lead tours of ʻIole each morning, David Fuertes will take people to Kahua Pa’a Mua on Sunday and there will be an open house at the North Kohala Community Resource Center (NKCRC) on Monday. Kohala High School & Kohala Hospital will also have a tour. See program book for updated information. Throughout the three days the Hisaoka Gym will be filled with exhibits showcasing Kohala’s past and present. If you want to spend some time hanging out and relaxing with friends, there will be checkers, jacks, cards, and hanafuda available to borrow in the keiki tent. 

Registration will be open until the first day of the Reunion although people are encouraged to register early. Those who register will receive a bag of goodies including a program book containing the times and places of all the entertainment, activities and sports events as well as information on the participating food and craft vendors and the exhibits in the gym. 

The Reunion committee is looking forward to welcoming all those returning from afar and all those who still call Kohala home.

Support for the Kohala Reunion 2022 is provided by the Hawai’i Tourism Authority through the Community Enrichment Program. The Kohala Reunion is also a sponsored project of NKCRC. 

See our booth at the Kohala Night Market on June 1 for more information.

Kūkulu o Kohala presents Mo‘okū‘auhau, Mo‘olelo, Mo‘opuna: Connections Through the Generations

By Pua Case

On June 11, 2021 – Kamehameha Day – Kūkulu o Kohala, a traveling exhibition that pays tribute to community pillars through photography and the arts, was formally opened in five locations from Kapaʻau to Niuliʻi. Maile lei and chants were offered at each exhibit site by Hālau Kawehimamoikawēkiuʻo Kohala to honor the theme, Moʻokūʻauahu, Moʻolelo, Moʻopuna, Connections Through the Generations.

The exhibit began as a vision to recognize the generations of lineages throughout the Kohala community. It transformed into a visual symbol of the ability to rise to face any and all challenges. In this case, the challenge facing the community was COVID. From the onset, it was important that this exhibition not be rushed, that it be done right with protocols and guidelines and with the deepest aloha in mind and heart for the genealogies, stories and chants that would inspire the community as well as visitors to Kohala.

For this author, as Mauna Kea Education and Awareness (MKEA) Project Director, this exhibit display in Kohala was especially significant to me and my family as we trace part of our genealogy and family stories back to Kohala.

“Each of the previous seven displays were special, from the past exhibits at the Hawaiian Cultural Center of Hāmākua in Honokaʻai, the East Hawaiʻi Cultural Center in Hilo, to the current exhibits at One Aloha Shave Ice in Kona, and at One Step on Oʻahu. This exhibit in Kohala however, was extra special and therefore, we stepped into the community carefully, assembling an advisory committee of family and deeply respected community members in order to make sure that we adhered to their requests, followed their lead and shaped this exhibit around the characteristics and rich heritage of this place.

“They guided this project through every step of the process from selection of photos to installation at each location. That was of utmost importance as it has always been our goal to have the exhibit remain in Kohala for as long as it is felt to be a valuable part of the essence of the community.”

When visiting the various Kūkulu displays in Kohala today, one will see that each display is unique and that the faces of Kohala, from Hawaiʻi and from around the world highlight the strength and manner in which people continue to stand for the protection of the environment, for sources and resources, for life ways and for sacred places such as Mauna Kea and Pololū Valley. This has indeed been a heartfelt undertaking and a sincere mahalo goes out to Mauna Kea Education and Awareness for sponsoring the exhibit, the Kohala Advisory Committee, location hosts, everyone in the photographs and the Kohala community. Location sites include the Vea Polynesian Gift Shop, Pomaikaʻi Cafe Gift Shop, King’s View Cafe, Makapāla Retreat Center and Starseed Ranch. To view the display at Starseed, contact Alohi Keohuloa at (808) 825-1678 and for Makapāla, contact Elisabeth Kawe at (808) 430-6918. All other locations welcome visits during business hours.

Many community members and visitors from around the world have been inspired by the strength of community shown in the faces displayed within each piece of art. It has been an honor to hold space for the stories held within the exhibit,” shares Elisabeth Kawe of the exhibit at Makapāla Retreat Center. That sentiment is shared by all the location sites which for all involved with installing and maintaining the exhibit means that Kūkulu o Kohala is a success and important for the community.

Kohala community members are welcome to contact MKEA at to inquire about submitting a photo to add to any of the exhibit displays.

Roots Skatepark Earth Day Celebration a Success

By Libby Leonard

On April 23, the annual Earth Day celebration at Roots Skatepark took place, sewing together several members of the community through volunteership and donations to take care of the park’s grounds and new food forest.

The event was thrown by Mālama I Ke Kai and Breathe Roots Hawai’i. Breathe is a subsidiary of the nonprofit Roots Advocates for Youth, run by Executive Director and Events Producer Lydia Zuniga and her Operations Director Caryn Villacorte. 

“It’s about unity,” said the vibrant Zuniga.   

The event – much like the formation of the skatepark itself through the efforts of Richey Riggs and Brian Sandlin – was a truly collaborative, altruistic experience.

Volunteers of all ages filtered in at 8 a.m., and after a short session of yoga and meditation, proceeded to take care of vast portions of the park, weeding and putting in mulch donated by Kahua Paʻa Mua, while also utilizing Dragonheart Farms’ popular GrowFaast soil amendments.  

All were later served lunch, part of which was donated by the Kohala Fish Company, and all of which was prepared for free by Gill’s Lanai, packaged in compostable containers  from Kohala Grown. 

Cole Kela Fuertes provided the music free of charge from 11:00–1:00.

Tables were also set up for Kohala High youth to give out their prepaid plate lunches and other snacks for their prom fundraiser. There was also a face-painting station, tables with secondhand items, shave ice, and Roots Skatepark merchandise. 

Many other donations came from organizations and individuals across Kohala to make the skatepark and its food forest reach its full potential. “It will be nice to just be able to kind of grab a piece of fruit for a snack,” said young skater Felipe Ruvalcaba.

In the future, the kids will be able to choose from bananas, oranges, coconuts, cherries, and mulberries with whatever else the community chose to plant in new raised beds.

According to Zuniga, the event was a full success and fulfilled her project’s mission of creating a place that brings a sense of belonging and feeling valued, while all working together. 

Up next for Roots is Go Skate Day on June 19. Akoni Pule Highway will be closed briefly from the Aloha Gas Station to the park, where kids and adults can skate to have more fun and food. 

To learn more or donate, visit

Future Farmers of America

Story by T.J. Giel.

The Kohala FFA Chapter proudly represented their chapter at the State Convention from April 18–22, 2022. This event was held virtually with chapters from around the state in attendance. Members competed in events such as: Job Interview, Extemporaneous Public Speaking and Creed Recital. Christine Kimball, Daylan Tayan-Germano, Hailey Kauanoe-Galdones, Camille Pinho, Daysha Tayan-Germano and Kenneth Matsuda represented our chapter with such professionalism, dedication and true Kohala Pride!

Results were announced virtually on Friday, April 22, with chapters from around the state. The Kohala FFA Chapter received state honors with Camille Pinho winning 1st Place in the Job Interview category and Kenneth Matsuda winning 1st Place for his Creed Recital. With these honors, Camille and Kenneth can compete at the National Level in Indiana later this year. 

FFA is a dynamic youth organization that changes lives and prepares members for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. FFA develops members’ potential and helps them discover their talent through hands-on experiences, which give members the tools to achieve real-world success. FFA is an intracurricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership. It is one of the three components of agriculture education. The official name of the organization is the National FFA Organization. The letters “FFA” stand for Future Farmers of America. These letters are a part of our history and our heritage that will never change.

Little Free Pantry Returns

Photo by Sadie Young

The Kohala Little Free Pantry is back up at Banyan Park, on the mauka (uphill) side of Akoni Pule Highway near the intersection of Hāwī Road.


On page 7 of the April 2022 issue, it was incorrectly stated that Malia and Eugene Dela Cruz were parents of the three boys in the photo. In fact, Jhace Kaipo’s mother is Chontel Eugenio and Conquer Libron-Crabbe’s parents are Blaine Crabbe and Narlynn Libron.

Notice of Road Closure

Attention motorists: Akoni Pule Highway, Route 270,

will be closed on Sunday, June 19, from 10:00 to 

10:30 a.m. The closure will occur from the intersection 

of Kynnersley Road to Roots Skatepark for the 

“Go Skate Day” Parade, a family-friendly event to 

celebrate the Phase Two expansion of the park. 

Participants will ride their skateboards down Akoni Pule Highway to Roots Skatepark. For more information, 

contact Roots Skatepark Volunteer Director 

Richey Riggs at 808-895-2909.

KHS May Day Celebration

By Brenda Swan

Kohala High School was pleased to resume their May Day celebration, “Aloha e Kohala, kuʻu one hānau e” (Kohala the beloved sands of my birth) on May 3 with a program featuring live music and hula under the direction of Uncle Michael Matsu. After a two year hiatus, the scaled-down assembly was viewed in person by a limited number of students and special guests in the Kohala High School gymnasium, while the remaining students enjoyed a live-stream of the event.
The stream is available to view at
Following an opening oli and pule by Tumu Naleialoha Napaepae-Kunewa and welcome from Principal Amy Stafford, the May Day Court procession began with Mō’ī Kāne (king) Legend Kaleikaumaka Libron. It was led by ka mea oli (chanter) Moses Kahoʻokele Crabbe and attended by pū (conch shell blowers) Blade Libron-Crabbe and Ishen Salvador-Libron, and his Ke Alo Ali’i (king’s personal attendant) Anthony Kawaiolamaikalākūlua Ka’ai. His nā poʻe ihe (spearsmen) were Isaac Salvador-Libron and Easton Hoshida, and nā paʻa kāhili (feather standard, symbolic of royalty) were Tamatasi-Villiami Sauta and Chase Hirano. Mō’ī Wahine (queen) Teige Keikilani Lorenzo-Akamu was led by Kumu ʻĀina and attended by ladies-in-waiting Tamryn Lorenzo-Akamu, Ayezha-Lynn Isabel and Maekayela Galam. Her nā poʻe ihe were Isaiah Castillo and Makaialeaukahi Pang, and her nā paʻa kahili were Weston-Jon Camara and Quentin Hook.
Mōʻī Kāne and Mōʻī Wahine were followed by the island court. Representing Hawaiʻi Island were Rayana Ivy Hulaliokapūpūmakamaeikealaula Kanehailua-Baldos and paʻa kāhili Landen DeSilva. Maui was represented by Myiesha Kamalei Hatsumi Emeliano and paʻa kāhili Zavier Ramos-Moniz. Kahoʻolawe was represented by Marley Peʻahi Mitsuko Yamamoto and paʻa kāhili Kainalu Yamamoto. Lānaʻi was represented by Iris Sarai Cedillos and paʻa kāhili Elias Edayan. Molokaʻi was represented by Savannah Keaowenamaikalani Kawaihilinahe Kupukaʻa and paʻa kāhili Samson Soares. Oʻahu was represented by Kailani Maile Valenzuela-Conte and paʻa kāhili Keale Valenzuela-Conte. Kauaʻi was represented by Tiani Aaliyah Kaʻulaokeahiimekealohaokekainui Reyes Akana and paʻa kāhili Aidan Blanco. Niʻihau was represented by Chyler-Leighn Kuliakauʻiokalani Derla and paʻa kāhili Kahakaulaomaliʻu Catrett. 

The program was moderated by Megan Kiliohumaikalāhikiola Hoʻopai and Hailey Kaunoe-Galdones. 
Mahalo to Aunty Kauʻi Nakamura and Uncle Laddy Shim for their kōkua (help), and our musicians John Keawe, Jr., Uʻilani Lorenzo, Cole Fuertes, and Ray DelaCruz. Kohala High School would like to mahalo all who helped make this day possible and to the community for their continued support. 

KHS Capstone Projects

Story and photos by Brenda Swan

On the evening of Friday April 29, a group of Kohala High School Student Ambassadors, culinary students and seniors transformed the STEM building complex. They welcomed parents, guests and local luminaries to a showcase for capstone projects and a Taste-of-Kohala experience.

Following opening remarks from Complex Area Superintendent Janette Snelling, Career and Technical Education District Resource Teacher Fern White and Natural Resources teacher Dean Snelling, guests enjoyed presentations by the seniors summarizing their work-based learning experiences. They were then treated to a variety of local-style dishes prepared and served by Mrs. Figueroa’s culinary students.

The capstone is a long-term project, intended to develop skills that prepare students for college or career through practical experience by partnering with a local business in line with their interests and aspirations.

Student-industry partnerships ranged from medicine and construction to hydroponics and energy production.

Thanks to these community and industry partners, students had opportunities to develop critical thinking skills in a real-world setting: BodyPro Physical Therapy, Hawaiʻi Life Real Estate Brokers, Isabel’s Automotive, Mrs. Adrina Kise, Kohala-Hāmākua Dental, PowerGrid Partners and Risen Construction.


Photo by Reed Takaaze

6th row (top), left to right:Samson Soares, Nicholas Tyler, Alyssa Sasaki, Maya Matthey, Noah Smith-Chau, Nathan Perez Lucy Hernandez, Patience Lewis and Sam Van Dam.

5th row: Chase Hirano, Zavier Ramos-Moniz, Gissel Ruiz, Brennan Torres, McTyrone Afaga, Raimana Lajala-Kanakanui, Dhona Rico and 

Daylan Tayan-Germano.

4th row: Gibson Polevia, Logan Neves, McCartney Michaelis, Francesca Salmoiraghi, Talia Sanchez, Brooklyn Geiger, Kona Ledward-Mongkeya, Jake Duby and Quentin Hook.

3rd row: Onipa’a Tavares-Matsuda, Koby Agbayani, Chyler Derla,  Anela Cazimero-Roxburgh, Landen DeSilva, Teige Lorenzo-Akamu, Tristan Van Berg, Legend Libron- Kauanoe, Jace Hook and Lauren Hawkins.

2nd row: O’shen Cazimero, Emily Leonard, Waiulu Kawai-Poliahu, Kai Nemzer, D’Angelo Duque, Ayezha Isabel, Iris Cedillos, La’akea Kauka and Neighton Bell.

1st row: Adam Heu-Mathieu, Damien Padilla, Rayana Baldos, Myiesha Emeliano, Riley Preston, Isaiah Woods, Kayla Nicholas, Leiana Carvalho, Joel Gonzales-Oliveros and Zayden Bronson.       

Missing: Kalimahoonimakani Biedenharn-Gali, Razel Cafe, Malie Kamaile-Isabel, Angelina Peritore, Nikolas Tompkins and Skyla VanZandt.

Community Manager seeks to spread kindness and hope

Story and photo by Libby Leonard

Several months ago, when school was in session, Ross Pagat knew he wanted to do something extra to help students start their day off right.

One morning he wrote a positive quote on a white board, walked himself to where the long parade of cars forms from families dropping off their children on Honomakau Road, and held it up. 

At first he was nervous, unsure how he was going to be received, but his nerves calmed when he was met with copious smiles and waves. After that he came out every morning he could, rain or shine, first thinking he’d go to Spring Break, but once that passed, decided to take it all the way to the end of the year. 

“It’s important that we do these things because we all go through struggles, every one of us. Some days, I may be struggling more than others. And that’s when that act of kindness can go a long way,” Pagat said. 

Pagat is the Community Manager for Partners in Development Foundation (PIDF), a nonprofit that “empowers families to navigate social challenges and to grow self-resiliency, vibrancy, and healthy, secure communities in Hawai’i.” 

PIDF partners with the three schools in Kohala, where Pagat’s job is to go out and gather information on school issues and needs, many of which he finds from the students themselves. These concerns are then brought to community partners and stakeholders to build relationships with the schools and find solutions, in what Pagat says is a Community-School strategy.

The community partners Pagat liaises with are extensive and include Liliuokalani Trust, Big Island Substance Abuse Council, Vibrant Hawaiʻi, Kohala Village HUB, Overflow Church, Takata Market and Hawaiʻi County Parks and Recreation. 

In part, he attributes being able to hold up these signs to this teamwork. 

He came up with the daily quotes alongside his wife and son, whether by searching for them online, hearing them from friends, or making them up himself. 

Now that school is out, when asked what he could impart to the students, Pagat says, “My wish for the students over the summer is that they continue to seek out positive things and do positive things for other people.”