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Rotarians usher in holiday joy

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    Every holiday season, the Rotary Club of Mililani Sunrise sets out to put smiles on children's faces by providing gifts and Christmas dinner to a family through the Adopt-a-Family program. Club President-elect Wendell Nekota played Santa again this year. The Adopt-a-Family program benefits from the Star-Advertiser's Good Neighbor Fund.
    Wendell Nekota of the Rotary Club of Mililani Sunrise played Santa to deliver gifts to a family under the Adopt-a-Family program.

The look of wonder on the face of a kid who believes in Santa Claus inspires members of the Rotary Club of Mililani Sunrise to "go all out" for a family they adopt every Christmas.

"We want to make sure we get a family with young kids," said Paul Nakachi, past president of the club. "We want to see the joy in their eyes when Santa Claus comes. That’s the most joyous part of the whole thing, without question. When we come with Santa, with a sack full of goodies — that’s chicken skin!"

The club is one of many organizations and companies that sign up regularly to become donors in the annual Adopt-a-Family program under Helping Hands Hawaii. The Star-Advertiser’s Good Neighbor Fund helps the nonprofit in raising donations of cash and material goods for the holiday program.

"We go all out for them," Nakachi said. "Christmas is just once a year."

The Sunrise club chooses a family, sometimes two, living in the Mililani area from a list of people provided by Helping Hands. Members generally contribute a total of about $400 to $500 each year to cook a special dinner and buy gifts requested by the family.

"We don’t buy expensive things. We’re just a small club, just 20 members. But we’re very active in the community. We like to give," Nakachi said.

Wendell Nekota, the club’s president-elect, has played Santa the past several years, and coordinates everything with Helping Hands. Donors don’t usually deliver the food and presents themselves, but visiting the adopted family is an essential part of their gift.

"It’s a rewarding thing for us. We all feel better helping a needy family," he said. "I dress up as Santa Claus with a bag of toys. We cook full dinners, turkey and ham with all the sides." Members also spend time singing Christmas carols with the family.

This year, the club is helping a single mother with three girls, ages 2, 8 and 10. She works full time, but is finding it difficult to buy her children gifts, Nekota said.

"They haven’t asked for much," he added. The mom has requested gift cards for diapers and soap; the two eldest girls, tennis shoes and backpacks; and the 2-year-old, Elmo learning toys, Nekota said.

Nekota started out as Santa’s surrogate for his family celebrations, then began serving as Saint Nick as a favor for a few private parties a year.

"The enjoyment you get out of being Santa Claus — it’s fun!" he said. "I ask them if they’re being good, and are you listening to your parents — the usual things Santa would ask."


First Hawaiian Bank has been a collection site for the Star-Advertiser’s (formerly the Star-Bulletin’s) Good Neighbor Fund donations for about 10 years, as well as whenever a group needs to raise money for a good cause throughout the year, bank spokeswoman Susan Kam said.

Brandt Farias, FHB marketing director, said the bank tries to support community efforts as a way to demonstrate its five core values.

"It really starts with caring," he said, the most important of the values, which include character, cooperation, competitiveness and confidence.


Recent donations to the Good Neighbor Fund:

In Loving Memory of Tutu and Papa $2,500
Kerry S. Ishihara $1,000
REALTORS, Networking on Oahu $827
Gerard H.W. and Dina M. Auyong $500
Robert C. and Cheri Lee Keefer $500
Richard and Norma Robel $500
Russell S. Kato and Charleen M. Aina $400
Barbara K. Okabayashi $380
Contemporary Gardens $300
Herbert S.H. Au $300
Thomas J. Vincent Foundation Inc. $250
Rachel Widemann $250
Ross and Mari $200
James D. and Patricia L. Abts $200
Stephen S.F. and Canossa I.M. Choy $200
Honolulu Alumnae Chapter of ALPHA IOTA $200
John Gilbert $200
Paula Withrow Harris $200
Anne Lopez $200
V W Mulford Jr. and C I Williamson Mulford $200
Lawrence E. and Dayle A. Osborn $200
Gerald J. and Sylvia A. Silva $200
David S and Kathleen A Dodge $150
Willson C. Jr. and Sally C. Moore $150
Kenneth H. Muraoka $150
Betty Okimura $150
Anthony P. Tica $150
In Memory of Kelli Ann Andrade $100
In Loving Memory-Jimmy Chrystal $100
From John and Connie Collins and Ohana in Memory of Joseph Collins $100
In Memory of Thomas and Rachel Kawamoto $100
In Memory of Wilfred K. Keola Sr. $100
In Memory of Philip and Buddy Liu $100
In Memory of Akira Nishimura $100
In Honor of John and Jeanie Stowe $100
In Loving Memory of Francie and Lani Thomas $100
In Memory of Greg Yokomizo $100
In Loving Memory of Frank I. K. Perkins $100
In Memory of Herbert H. Hee $100
In Memory of Frances C. Hee $100
In Memory of Reynold Y.S. Leong $100
Aina Haina Eye Center $100
William Huntoon and Sharolyn Lee-Huntoon $100
Kai and Jase $100
Sean Ellis and Mia $100
Eric H.C. and Jean S.M. Chan $100
Andrew and Mei Jean Ching $100
Philip H. and Gerry W. Ching $100
Alvin Chock $100
John and Chizumi Gilbert $100
Larry, Susan and Dawn Goya $100
Wayne & Betty Harimoto $100
GGKD Horita $100
Captain Randall E. Jr. and Jean M. Jaycox $100
Martin and Theresa Jaskot $100
Virginia Jordan $100
Crystal Kawachi $100
Hiromu and Elizabeth Kawasaki $100
George and Joan Kent $100
John C. II and Marilyn K. Kiner $100
Harry H. and Pauline E. Kunimune $100
Love from Mackenzie Isabella Lew and Family $100
Denise M. Liu $100
Robert and Cynthia Maddox $50
Shigeto and Matsuko Minami $100
D.M. Nagamine $100
Carol Naone $100
Clifford Y and Barbara N Nohara $100
Judy Q.U. Park $100
John Bradley and Marilyn Ruth Seely $100
F.K. Sekiya and Patricia Sekiya $100
Kazuhiko and Emiko Shiraya $100
Nicole Stucki $100
Randal K. and Joyce T. Suzuki $100
Alex and Naomi Weinstein $100
Carolyn Whitney $100
Francis and Grace Yasutake $100
In Loving Memory of Willie $91
Jeannie and Norman Kawakami $75
In Honor of D. Leilani and L. Noelani Erickson $50
In Memory of Grandma & Grandpa Ikenaga $50
In Memory of Gordon Luning $50
In Memory of Mr. & Mrs. Yoshimura $50
In Memorium of Tom Nakagawa $50
In Memory of Rocky Raccoon $50
In Memory of William and Margaret Smith $50
From the 5-O’s $50
Employee Assistance of the Pacific $50
Laura and Bruce $50
M.B. Alexander $50
Gloria Castro $50
Eric and Mark Fukui $50
Mary Fong $50
K.T. and J.S. Hasegawa $50
Tom Huff $50
D.K. and J.Y. Ikehara $50
Reid Iwamoto $50
Louise N. Kojima $50
Shelli Laurion $50
Michael W. Lee $50
Richard and Norma Y. Ma $50
In Memory of Terue Matsuwaka $50
Amy Y. and David B. Monk $50
The Poker Buddies and friends $50
C and Y Remington Family $50
Charles S. and Lillian F. Tamabayashi $50
James and Lyn Turner $50
Timothy R. and Karen M. Wilson $50
Lance Watari and Lilis Malamah $40
Walter and Sadie Yamada $50
Danny C.H. and Janet P.F. Young $40
Apollo and Mica $30
Kenton, Karynna and Kallen $30
In Loving Memory of Cherry Matano $25
Kay K. and Kathleen M. Fung $25
Frank & Priscilla Gaison $25
George S. and Gayle M. Hirose $25
May S. Okano $25
Jorge B. and Blandina S. Retuta $25
J.A. and R.P. Sullivan $25
Charles K C Young $25
In Memory of G., T., A., and M. Seo $20
Patrick E. Carvalho $20
Carol and Jack Fuller $20
Alisa Seo-Lee, M.D., Evan D.G. Lee and Audrey Lee $20
Yvonne Longley $20
Gerald Endo $10
Howard and May Gady $10
Anonymous $1,000
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $100
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $50
Anonymous $30
Anonymous $30
Anonymous $15
Anonymous $10
Anonymous $200
Total $19,318
Grand total $56,072
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