Bring­ing hol­i­day spirit and cheer to kids in need

The Maui News - - SPORTS -

t’s never too early to get into the hol­i­day spirit. Just ask Melissa Smith and El­iz­a­beth Wood of Cold­well Banker Is­land Prop­er­ties.

They kicked off the sea­son of giv­ing in late Oc­to­ber when they started plan­ning a toy drive for chil­dren and teens stay­ing at Women Help­ing Women’s emer­gency shel­ter and Ka Hale A Ke Ola Home­less Re­source Cen­ters in Wailuku and La­haina.

It’s the sec­ond time Smith and Wood have col­lected toys for those in need. They came up with the idea last year while serv­ing meals at KHAKO’s Wailuku lo­ca­tion. (Real­tors As­so­ci­a­tion of Maui mem­bers vol­un­teer at the shel­ter ev­ery month; De­bra Merle of Is­land Sotheby’s In­ter­na­tional Realty spear­headed the din­ners in 1989.)

One mid-Novem­ber evening, as they pre­pared meals in the KHAKO kitchen, Smith and Wood learned there would be 100 chil­dren stay­ing at the shel­ter dur­ing the hol­i­days.

“It touched our hearts,” Wood said. “We both agreed we had to do some­thing.”

IThat’s when the pair con­cocted a plan: they de­cided to col­lect 100 toys — one for each child at the shel­ter. In the days that fol­lowed, they rounded up gifts, and to their sur­prise and de­light, they ex­ceeded their goal — they had gath­ered 200 toys in just a few short weeks.

A few days be­fore Christ­mas, Smith and Wood loaded up their cars and drove to KHAKO. There, they de­liv­ered the bounty of toys to ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Monique Ya­mashita.

“It felt re­ally good … be­cause it was the right thing to do,” Smith said. “It was the best part of our Christ­mas.”

So much, in fact, that she and Wood made an on-thes­pot pledge to Ya­mashita.

“We promised her we’d con­tinue to do it ev­ery year,” Smith said.

And they’ve kept their word. Since early Novem­ber, Smith and Wood have been busily stock­pil­ing new, un­wrapped gifts for kids of all ages (from in­fants to tod­dlers to tweens to teens) in Wood’s liv­ing room-turned-Santa’s work­shop. To keep things or­ga­nized and to en­sure ev­ery­one re­ceives a gift, each item is la­beled with a blue tag (hand­made by Smith and her chil­dren) that in­di­cates the cor­re­spond­ing re­cip­i­ent’s age, gen­der and shel­ter lo­ca­tion.

This time around, Smith and Wood started early and ex­panded their ef­forts to in­clude the more than two dozen chil­dren at Women Help­ing Women’s emer­gency shel­ter — in ad­di­tion to the nearly 170 youth cur­rently re­sid­ing at KHAKO’s two shel­ters.

There’s still time to con­trib­ute to the toy drive. Smith and Wood will be col­lect­ing items un­til Thurs­day. Toys are still needed for three age groups: in­fants, 1- and 2year-olds and 7-year-olds. To do­nate, con­tact Smith at 298-6810 or Wood at 3858888. Or, you can drop off a new, un­wrapped gift (worth at least $20 and tagged with the cor­re­spond­ing age range and gen­der) at any Cold­well Banker Is­land Prop­er­ties of­fice, with the lone ex­cep­tion of the La­haina of­fice.

And true to their word, Smith said, “We will do this again next year — and ev­ery year.”

KHAKO is a com­pre­hen­sive re­source cen­ter that pre­pares fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als for per­ma­nent hous­ing while pro­vid­ing emer­gency shel­ter, coun­sel­ing ser­vices, ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery man­age­ment and adult ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing, as well as a pri­mary care med­i­cal clinic and child­care fa­cil­ity. The non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der­went a par­a­digm shift last year, redi­rect­ing its fo­cus to break­ing the cy­cle of home­less­ness by find­ing and main­tain­ing per­ma­nent hous­ing for its res­i­dents.

Women Help­ing Women pro­vides cri­sis intervention and sup­port ser­vices for di­rect and in­di­rect vic­tims of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence on Maui and Lanai. The mis­sion of the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion is to end do­mes­tic vi­o­lence through ad­vo­cacy, ed­u­ca­tion and pre­ven­tion while of­fer­ing safety and sup­port to those im­pacted by it. Ev­ery year, Women Help­ing Women helps close to 1,500 women, men and chil­dren.

To learn more about KHAKO or to in­quire about donor or vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties, visit www.khako.org or call 242-7600. For more in­for­ma­tion about Women Help­ing Women, visit wom en­help­ing­wom­en­maui.com, email [email protected]­w­maui.net or call the main of­fice at 2426600.

If you or some­one you know needs help, call the 24-hour cri­sis hot­line at 5799581.

RAM mem­bers Melissa Smith (left) and El­iz­a­beth Wood are bright­en­ing the hol­i­days for kids at Ka Hale A Ke Ola Home­less Re­source Cen­ters in Wailuku and La­haina and Women Help­ing Women’s emer­gency shel­ter.

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