Editor’s note: Bob Sigall, who writes the Rearview Mirror column which runs on Fridays, is appearing a day early this week with a story of a century of service in Hawaii.
Today is Thanksgiving, and one of the things I am thankful for is the Aloha United Way, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
It represented something new in 1919. For the first time in Hawaii, multiple charities came together to raise money jointly for all their organizations. That saved money on fundraising and allowed more to be spent on the community.
Originally 17 charities came to see that they shared similar purposes and often worked together to provide care for the citizens of our territory. It was called the United Welfare Fund and its goal was to raise $250,000 in its first year.
Frank C. Atherton and the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce wanted to create a more efficient way of encouraging charitable giving, primarily through workplace campaigns.
The very first campaign held was called Wikiwiki Kokua, and it resulted in $200,000 in donations, or about $3 million in today’s dollars.
Some of the charities were: Palama Settlement, Salvation Army, Humane Society, Leahi Home, Japanese Hospital, King’s Daughters’ Home, Kalihi Orphanage, YMCA, YWCA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and the Free Kindergarten.
Palama Settlement at the time had one doctor, one dentist and 10 nurses. They treated over 11,000 patients a year, in one of Honolulu’s poorer communities, catering to needs of all classes, conditions and nationalities.
It had grown out of the Palama Mission Chapel near King and Liliha streets in the early 1900s.
It treated patients with minor health conditions who would otherwise be sent to more expensive hospitals. It also provided classes, athletics and afterschool programs.
The police department said that crime was down because of Palama Settlement activities, which made it possible for young people to get rid of excess energy in good, healthy recreation and entertainment.
There were eight kindergartens with nearly 2,000 kids attending in 1919. Palama nurses visited every kindergarten twice a week.
The King’s Daughter’s Home on Makiki Street near Wilder Avenue (and later at 3221 Waialae Ave. in Kaimuki) was founded around 1910 for the “dear ones who have borne the brunt and heat of the day, who have toiled faithfully and long and lovingly all through their lives to make the world better, who have sacrificed so much in order to uplift humanity, should be tenderly and lovingly cared for the remaining years of their lives,” a spokeswoman said.
The Kalihi Orphanage was built around 1906 and run by the Sisters of St. Francis for boys born of parents with Hansen’s disease. Kapiolani Home cared for girls whose parents had leprosy.
The Susannah Wesley Home opened in 1903 to provide shelter and a Christian environment for Japanese and Korean widows and children. They also focused on girls 11 to 16, who were in danger of being sold into servitude or into dishonorable living situations.
The Palama Settlement helped orphans in these institutions find jobs when they reached working age.
Leahi Home focused on the “White Plague” — tuberculosis. Interestingly, Leahi Home and Palama Settlement both grew out of the same event.
In January 1900, a fire burned down much of Chinatown. Men, women and children fled. Some went to a camp at Queen and South streets in Kakaako, where an old kerosene warehouse once existed.
Others fled west, to the Palama Mission Chapel on the Diamond Head/makai corner of King, Dillingham and Liliha Streets. It evolved into Palama Settlement.
In the weeks that followed the fire, the able-bodied moved on, leaving mainly “destitute incurables” at the Kakaako site.
The Honolulu Home for the Incurables, as it was once called, treated those with tuberculosis, paralysis, rheumatism, ulcers and other disorders.
It moved to Kaimuki in 1906 near Fort Ruger and was renamed Leahi Home. Leahi is the Hawaiian name for Diamond Head. Other translations of the name mean “brow of the tuna” and “wreath of fire.”
The Japanese Hospital grew out of the Japanese Benevolent Society, which was founded in 1892. Its mission was to care for the tens of thousands of aging, single Japanese men in Hawaii.
Many single Chinese men who came to Hawaii married Hawaiian women. Japanese men either came with a wife, sent for a picture bride, or stayed single.
To care for all the single men, they started the Japanese Charity Hospital in Kapalama in 1900. The hospital cost $3,100 to build and had 38 beds.
The hospital outgrew this facility and moved to a second location near where the Liliha library is now. Demand was great and the Society solicited funds for a larger hospital.
Emperor Taisho of Japan contributed to the building of a 70-bed facility at its current site on Kuakini Street in 1918. The 4-acre site was large enough for current and even future needs. The name was shortened to Japanese Hospital, and during World War II to Kuakini Hospital.
The YWCA, YMCA, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts saw themselves as builders of better girls, boys, men and women.
The Americanization of their members, many of whom were first- and second-generation immigrants, was key. They wanted their participants “to think American, speak American, play American, in other words learn what it means to live clean lives and become true American citizens,” the Pacific Commercial Advertiser reported.
One scout leader did the math: Each scout did at least one kind, helpful, unselfish deed a day. There were 29 Boy and 12 Girl Scout troops with maybe 1,000 members.
Multiply that by 365 days a year and that would be 365,000 acts of kindness.
In 1924, the United Welfare Fund said its work focused on keeping boys out of jail, girls out of the school for delinquents, and old people out of the homes for indigents.
Its members provided free medical attention for the sick and injured, and worked to reduce infant mortality in Hawaii.
All the above is a good working example of how one organization, instead of confining its work to the walls of its buildings, kept in touch and cooperated with other welfare organizations.
In 1943, the fund changed its name to the Honolulu Community Chest, to align with the 600-plus community chests in America.
Honolulu Advertiser cartoonist Harry Lyons created a character called “Chestie” to lead the 1963 campaign. Chairman Gene Wilhelm said, “Chestie is a lovable little cosmopolitan character who typifies so well our way of life in Hawaii. His slogan is ‘We live together. Let’s give together.’”
Honolulu Advertiser reporter Bob Krauss held a Chestie look-alike contest and the winner was 6-year-old David (Sumo) Nakamura of Kaimuki. For that he won a Sears bicycle.
In 1974, its organization’s name changed to the current Aloha United Way. AUW continues to focus on workplace giving through its Annual Giving Campaign with this year’s theme of “Celebrating 100 Years of Creating Change Together.”
With nearly 1,500 workplace campaigns underway, the goal is to raise $10 million to support the more than 315 AUW partner agencies.
You can visit auw.org for more information.