Curtis Kropar has brought hope to many of those less fortunate in the islands. The hope of gaining knowledge, empowerment and ultimately, a better life.
Through his nonprofit, Hawaiian Hope, founded in 2006, the 46-year-old executive director and as many as 30 volunteers have refurbished nearly 1,000 donated computers for low-income families and individuals, homeless shelters, clean-and-sober houses, prisoner re-entry programs, and schools in need of high technology.
"Mr. Kropar has spearheaded the initiative to place a computer in as many homes and hands as possible," said Lurline Manalo, administrative assistant at Hawaii Technology Institute, one of the client organizations of Hawaiian Hope, which offered the tech school’s students free computers for training. "Mr. Kropar and his volunteers have selflessly given of their time, talents and resources to collect, repair, refurbish and donate hundreds of computers to those who need a computer but are not able to afford one. The generous acts of Mr. Kropar and his volunteers have provided computer access to many who are socially and economically disadvantaged."
The information technology expert, who himself was homeless for nearly a decade in the 1990s, is driven by a desire to give people a chance to gain necessary skills for today’s work environment.
Hawaiian Hope, which operates on a $25,000 annual budget and zero grant funding, has a number of projects besides fixing and giving away computers, which has helped more than 100 organizations. The group also designs the software that nonprofits use to manage day-to-day operations, offers computer training, and is scheduled in January to open an Internet cafe for low-income residents in Waianae.
"I’m a firm believer of everything happens for a reason. It sometimes may take you years to figure out the why between certain things and events, but in retrospect you can connect these dissociated things that didn’t make sense that all of a sudden became crystal clear," said Kropar, who moved to Hawaii in 2005 to become a computer programmer. "In Hawaii we’re always talking about we’re going to solve the homeless problem, but you’re not solving anything until you help people realize their potential."
Kropar says people nowadays must know how to use a computer just to apply for certain jobs.
"You’ve got a continuous flow of people who become homeless every year for various reasons," he said. "Part of why we’re doing this is that if we can expose the community overall to computers and technology, it opens the doors for a lot of people. IT and technology is one of the few careers where you don’t need a college degree. If they’ve got a background in computers and a better understanding of technology, they stand a better chance of getting and keeping better jobs."
Kropar said his nonprofit has about 600 computers in stock at self-storage facilities on Oahu, and capacity has become a challenge for the group.
The group is working out of storage facilities, which "drastically complicates our mission and objectives," and Kropar has an office in a homeless shelter in Kapolei.
The organization doesn’t have a vehicle to transport the computers and is in desperate need of a single, large facility to house increasing donations, he said.
About this series: The Honolulu Star-Advertiser recently asked readers to help shine a light on the good works of a few true unsung heroes. Readers responded with nominees from divergent walks of island life who share a common desire to help others. Star-Advertiser editors chose six Heroes Next Door who will be highlighted in stories through Monday.