Social Encore: Community Helping Schools gives back

Aug. 22, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser

It’s already August, and you know what that means — summer break is over and school is back in session.

As a proud alumnus of the public school system, I had teachers who were willing to go to great lengths in order make sure that we comprehended subjects like history, art and science. Some of these teachers, like my Kalihi-Waena second grade teacher, Ms. Iris Irie, would spend their own money in order to provide their classrooms with necessary school supplies.

Valerie Joseph Boutique raised money to buy fans for all the Oahu schools that requested them. (Coutesy Photo)

Valerie Joseph Boutique raised money to buy fans for all the Oahu schools that requested them. (Coutesy Photo)

In 2000, Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties realtor Kathie Wells read a newspaper story about educators like Ms. Irie who were in need of supplies, including folder paper, pencils and fans to help keep classrooms cool. Wells wanted to help, so she formed Community Helping Schools, a non-profit organization that helps public schools gather necessary resources.

CHS runs solely on donations and the efforts of volunteers like board member Tai Leong, who became involved with the organization in 2009 through Ad 2 Honolulu, a professional organization for advertising professionals under the age of 33.

Each year, Ad 2 Honolulu executes a fully intergraded advertising campaign for non-profits on a pro-bono basis as their way of giving back to the community. Community Helping Schools was one of the finalists and Leong said when she met Wells, she noticed her passion to really make an impact in Hawaii’s public schools.

“The second I met Kathie I knew I wanted to work with her,” said Leong. “I immediately felt her passion for Community Helping Schools. She had three sons graduate from Kalaheo High School, so she was very familiar with the public school system.”

After Leong helped complete the campaign through Ad 2 Honolulu for Community Helping Schools, she was invited to sit on the Board of Directors and has been involved ever since.

The non-profit’s name is literal; they partner with the community, local businesses and even other non-profits in order to help fulfill teacher requests. Teachers can work through their school’s Parent Community Networking Center (PCNC), where representatives are aware of Community Helping Schools.

A piano is delivered by Community Helping Schools. (Courtesy photo)

A piano is delivered by Community Helping Schools. (Courtesy photo)

Teachers submit their requests, and CHS tries their best to use their resources, networks and help from community members to fulfill these requests.

“All of us can play a part,” Leong said. “We can all help fulfill wish lists in very small ways (that) will make a big difference.”

Wells shared several stories where Community Helping Schools helped teachers and schools across the state. One of those stories involved Mark Pillori, a real estate agent who had a condo listing in Waipahu. The owner of the condo owned a piano in good condition and decided to donate it.

Waipahu High School’s music teacher at the time had always wanted to teach her students piano lessons, but the school could not afford a piano. When CHS called to offer her the piano she cried; it was a dream come true for her and made a difference to her and her students.

Another story Wells shared demonstrated the partnerships between schools. A few years ago, Makakilo Elementary School submitted a wish list for computers. The leases on equipment in their computer lab were about to expire, and they did not have the funds to renew them. Punahou School ended up donating more than 40 computers to CHS and they went directly to Makakailo Elementary.

When the items are delivered, both students and teachers write thank you letters to donors, bringing the process full circle.

Volunteers pose for a photo during a donation drive for Communiy Helping Schools. (Coutesy photo)

Volunteers pose for a photo during a donation drive for Communiy Helping Schools. (Coutesy photo)

Leong said she continues to be involved because she knows how hard teachers work to care for their students. She said education plays a vital role in our community, and by being able to help contribute is priceless to her.

“I want to help knowing that one day when I have kids, they may be in a classroom or have a teacher that has needs for basic supplies,” she said. “This is a way to pay it forward.”

Wells has run CHS for 13 years with no paid staff. Every person who helps receive and deliver items, goes shopping for supplies, helps log and sort items and writes receipts are all volunteers.

There will be benefit concert for Community Helping Schools this Saturday, Aug. 24, at Fresh Cafe, 831 Queen St. Fresh Cafe, along with Equus Hotel, Iratik by Krystle Ganotisi and The Firm Honolulu are all donating their time to help out, and there will be musical erformances by DJ Osna, DJ Yungvibe, Edward Nguyen and local musician Aidan James. Headlining the event is Youtube sensation Jenny Suk.

The Firm will also host a meet-and-greet with Suk at their Keeaumoku St. location from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Suk will be there to take pictures and sign autographs.

Community Helping Schools will be at the concert to accept donations. Look around your house and see if you have things that are in good condition, such as a fans, VCRs or DVD players you don’t use anymore. Check the CHS website to see if there is a teacher who could use it. Some of the most-requested supply items are pencils, paper, pens and crayons.

I went to website and noticed my former middle school, Dole Middle School, is listed. As I looked through teachers’ wish lists, I recognized a few names. Those teachers made going to school educational, enjoyable and fun. I know I will be donating supplies as a way to give back and as a token of my appreciation for all they did for me when I was a student there.

For tickets and information about the concert, visit their Facebook event page for the benefit show.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.

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