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|
|Herbert S.H. Au||$300|
|Thomas J. Vincent Foundation Inc.||$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|
|Paula Withrow Harris||$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|
|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|
|John and Chizumi Gilbert||$100|
|Larry, Susan and Dawn Goya||$100|
|Wayne & Betty Harimoto||$100|
|Captain Randall E. Jr. and Jean M. Jaycox||$100|
|Martin and Theresa Jaskot||$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|
|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|
|Randal K. and Joyce T. Suzuki||$100|
|Alex and Naomi Weinstein||$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|
|Eric and Mark Fukui||$50|
|K.T. and J.S. Hasegawa||$50|
|D.K. and J.Y. Ikehara||$50|
|Louise N. Kojima||$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|
|Howard and May Gady||$10|