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Waikiki center seeks more aid as costs and services grow

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    Dorothy Herring gets assistance from the Waikiki Community Center to send her children Khole, left, and Kobe, right, to school there, but the center is struggling for funds. Her oldest daughter, Kathy, center, attends Jefferson Elementary School.

The Waikiki Community Center is the latest victim of soaring construction costs.

The center’s preschool expansion project — adding a sixth classroom by August — is more than triple the anticipated costs, said Caroline Hayashi, the center’s executive director. The construction was budgeted at $25,000 to $30,000 but is now coming in at upward of $80,000, she said.

The center is seeking more sponsors, teams and vendors to bolster fundraising at its Duke Kahanamoku Beach Challenge on May 7 at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. With the event less than two weeks out, the center is running behind its $100,000 target to fund growing demands for early education, senior and community service programs.

“We serve a low- to moderate-income population, so fees don’t support the programs,” Hayashi said. “We utilize grants, but they are often restricted for specific purposes. Fundraisers give us flexible money.”


Proceeds from the race benefit theWaikiki Community Center.

>> When: May 7, 9 a.m to 2 p.m.

>> Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort

>> Fundraising goal: $100,000

>> How it works: Groups of 10 enter to participate in a canoe race, a two-man kayak race and a stand-up paddleboard competition. It costs $1,500 to enter a group, but sponsorship options go up to $30,000 for a title sponsorship.

>> Wanted: Craft vendors. Space at the Hilton Hawaiian Village lawn is $250.

>> For more information: Contact Jill Okimura at 923-1802, ext. 108, or

Twenty teams have signed up for the beach challenge, but she hopes a couple more will sign up by week’s end.

The center also could use extra craft vendors, who pay $250 to put a retail tent on the Hilton Hawaiian Waikiki Beach Resort great lawn.

Hayashi said the center’s senior program has grown 300 percent in the last four years to serving 4,300 seniors last year, up from 1,600 in 2012. The center’s case management services, which help seniors in need, including those who are homeless or at risk for becoming homeless, served 847 clients last year, up from 124 in 2012.

Most of the money raised from this year’s Duke Kaha­namoku Beach Challenge is earmarked for the preschool, which saw enrollment increase 75 percent between 2015 and 2016.

“Next month we have 90 kids enrolled, up from 76, but we want to bring the count to more than 100 by the end of summer to meet growing demand,” Hayashi said. “The money from the Duke Kahanamoku Beach Challenge will support construction and allow us to hire another teacher if we get another class of low-income kids.”

From last year to this year, the center has increased the portion of low-income preschoolers to 75 percent from 70 percent, Hayashi said.

“We are growing the portion of low-income kids because we want to close the achievement gap. Study after study has shown that children who enter kindergarten behind tend to stay behind. By third grade they are way behind — high school dropouts in the making,” she said. “It’s amazing to think that a little investment now when they are very, very young goes such a long way toward starting them off on the right foot.”

Hayashi said making an investment in the center’s children will help ensure that the next generation is “striving and thriving throughout their lives and not just surviving.”

Waikiki bartender Dorothy Herring said she’s grateful for the center, which has provided scholarships so that her children — 5-year-old Khole Marie and 2-year-old Kobe Jordan — can attend preschool. Herring, who is a single mother of three, pays the preschool about $350 monthly, and the rest of the $1,500 tab is underwritten by the center and the state Department of Human Services.

“Most places, if you couldn’t pay, they wouldn’t help you. Without them I couldn’t afford to send my children to preschool without taking a second job,” Herring said. “I’m so grateful that my children are in a safe place where the curriculum is great and they are having fun. I love how the center’s preschool and its elderly classes work together so that everyone benefits.”

Herring said the preschool has made a notable difference in her children’s lives, and hopes that the community will give generously to the center’s fundraiser so that more children receive the support that their families need.

“Whatever you are able to donate is actually going to the next generation. These are the kids of Hawaii,” she said.

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