Homelessness has plagued Bertram Leopoldo’s family for a decade. But he’s made it his mission to break that cycle for his grandchildren, Sterlin and Zaden, by finding shelter for the three of them at Ohana Ola O Kahumana.
When his wife, Emily, died in 2007, Leopoldo’s life went into a tailspin. His children were teenagers and he had difficulty holding the family together.
An arrest for driving under the influence cost him nearly everything.
“I lost my license, my job and home. I ended up on the beach in Waianae,” he said.
Leopoldo also suffers health problems, experiencing his first heart attack at age 41. Thirteen years later, he underwent triple bypass surgery.
HOW TO HELP
More than 800 families will be served this year by the Good Neighbor Fund. To donate to the Leopoldo family in particular, use the Family Code OOOK-43
>> At the bank: Donations will be accepted at all First Hawaiian Bank locations through Dec. 31.>> Online: Go to HelpingHandsHawaii.org and click on the “donate now” button to make a gift via PayPal. Specify “Good Neighbor Fund.”
>> By mail: Make your check payable to “Good Neighbor Fund” and mail it to Helping Hands Hawaii, 2100 N. Nimitz Highway, Honolulu, HI 96819. Attention: Good Neighbor Fund.
>> Donations of goods: Drop off at the address above.
>> Call: 440-3800
In August, at age 59, he had another heart attack and spent nine days in the hospital. Health problems keep him from holding a job.
Still, faith and love for his family helped him turn his life around.
“I prayed for help,” Leopoldo said, and two weeks later he found shelter at Ohana Ola O Kahumana.
His adult children are also struggling with homelessness, so Leopoldo has guardianship of Sterlin and Zaden.
“I couldn’t see them not having anything and being so sad,” he said. ‘I’m always looking for positive things for the kids. I push them to do their best and to help others.”
Being in a stable home gives them a chance, he explained. “It’s home sweet home. I see the happiness on their faces. There’s no more drama and wondering what they’re going to eat.”
Grandchildren Sterlin, age 14, and Zaden, 10.
>> For himself: Shoes (size 12), shorts (38) and shirts (extra large). He also needs dental work to replace missing teeth. “All I want for Christmas is my three front teeth,” he says with a chuckle.
>> For Sterlin: Pants (juniors 13-15) shirts (adult large), dress slippers (adult size 11), backpack from Pink, Instax camera, Proactiv acne treatment, Jeans Warehouse gift cards
>> For Zaden: Pants (26 children’s), shirts (medium, 10-12), shoes (7-1/2 children’s), backpack, light-up shoes, gift cards, JBL Flip Bluetooth speaker, bike
Now that he has found shelter, Leopoldo is working on staying sober and improving his health so that he can provide for his grandchildren.
“I’m staying positive,” he said. “Life doesn’t come with a handbook. I just take one day at a time. I am so thankful for my family.”