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A legacy gift

A real estate firm's employees help public schools boost opportunities that will also benefit students in the future

By Nanea Kalani

LAST UPDATED: 11:15 a.m. HST, Feb 12, 2014

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A real estate firm with heart. That's how employees describe Prudential Locations, Hawaii's largest locally owned real estate firm.

Through the nonprofit Locations Foundation, Prudential employees donate time and money to benefit about 70 local charities that service children and families.

The foundation isn't a corporate-sponsored entity. It's solely funded by the company's real estate agents and staff, with most of Prudential's more than 300 employees devoting a percentage of each paycheck to the cause.

The foundation donated more than $150,000 and some 2,000 volunteer hours to local charitable causes last year, mostly on Oahu. That amounts to 250 eight-hour-days' worth of volunteering.

Activities range from an annual school supply drive for needy keiki to all-day repair and maintenance projects at school campuses to hosting recreational events for children in foster care.

"The foundation starts with the premise that as a company we work better together. The fundamental purpose is to give back to the community," said Linh DePledge, vice president of marketing for Prudential Locations.

Help is often most needed at Hawaii's public school campuses, the foundation's president says.

"The whole goal when this was started 25 years ago was to serve children, families and the community, and a lot of times that means helping the schools," said Jodee Farm, a partner with Prudential and president of The Locations Foundation.

Last year, the foundation launched its E Kulia a Hana Pono Legacy Project program, which provides grants to schools wanting to upgrade facilities or educational materials.

Palolo Elementary School was awarded the program's first grant of $25,000, which went toward a new science lab, including all equipment purchases. More than 70 Prudential employees volunteered to complete beautification projects and sustainability gardens on the campus.

Farm said the school — in an impoverished area — had recently revamped its curriculum to better help students learn through STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and math) lessons. The lab was seen as a way to help current and future students.

"We called it a legacy gift because we wanted to make sure the gift carries on," Farm said.

She said the foundation tries to organize a charitable event or activity at least once a month.

The foundation partners annually with Hawaii 3Rs — Repair, Remodel, Restore Our Schools, which was started in 2001 by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Ino­uye to address the repair and maintenance backlog at Hawaii's public schools through community involvement.

Hawaii 3Rs awards grants to public schools that step forward with private contributions and volunteerism — or "sweat equity" — of equal value to the requested grant amount.

Farm said Hawaii 3Rs arranges for the foundation to help a different school each year.

Prudential employees recently completed work at Washington Middle School, marking the 12th time the Locations Foundation has partnered with Hawaii 3Rs. The foundation also donated $5,000 for additional restoration initiatives.

"It's amazing how much people want to give of themselves but don't always have the outlet," Farm said. "We give them the opportunity and the projects. A lot of times we have more volunteers than we can use."

"It's so heartwarming when the community comes together and wants to pay it forward."

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