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New volunteer group forms to help kupuna

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM 
                                Greg Kim, a corporate lawyer, is organizing a growing group of volunteers to make free deliveries to kupuna and others in need. Kim poses with his volunteers during a teleconferencing session.

    CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Greg Kim, a corporate lawyer, is organizing a growing group of volunteers to make free deliveries to kupuna and others in need. Kim poses with his volunteers during a teleconferencing session.

Hawaii resident Gregory Kim got tired of seeing posts on Facebook about people who were unable to take care of basic needs during the COVID-19 quarantines. “We’re all at home with time on our hands,” he said. “I was thinking about people hoarding and seniors who can’t go out to get groceries, sheltering at home. People are willing to help others. Everyone can help someone.”

Then, last week, Kim saw a news story about some volunteers delivering groceries to seniors. In New York City a 20-year-old Yale junior on break from college amassed 1,300 volunteers in 72 hours who could deliver groceries and medicine to homebound seniors — socially distancing, but adding a warm voice on the other end of the phone or outside a door.

Kim knew that the need exists in Hawaii and that people would step up.

“People are willing to help other people with all the bad news. I talked to friends this weekend, and they jumped on board to help.”

Within two days he had 30 volunteers ready to deliver anywhere on the island, and that number is growing. “Hopefully, the number of volunteers can outpace the virus,” he said.

Kim has been a successful corporate attorney for over 30 years, and he also is a professor at the University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law. He is the founder of Vantage Counsel LLC and co-founder of Business Law Corps, a nonprofit corporation that provides pro bono services to talented entrepreneurs.

It is this experience with entrepreneurs that led him to create Help Is on the Way, providing a crucial network of volunteers to help kupuna and other individuals sheltered in place.

“With entrepreneurship the main thing to do is to move forward. I’m action- oriented, trying to create Hawaii jobs. I volunteer a lot. So, I decided to move forward. This is a nonprofit. We don’t need money. We’re all about boots on the ground,” he said.

Kim is one of the Hawaii residents turning their talents into ways to help during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For seniors who place orders with grocery stores or need pharmacy pickups, Help Is on the Way volunteers will pick up and deliver those items. “They can buy the groceries; they just can’t pick it up, can’t get it from Point A to Point B,” said Kim.

To volunteer or to ask for help, go to www.hihelpisontheway.org. They can also be found on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as volunteers build a social media profile.

He is already partnering with a rapidly forming coalition of services across Oahu to provide this crucial piece to deliver food to Hawaii residents. All volunteers are personal connections. Volunteers accept applications and screen for challenges and special needs. Others perform dispatch functions. Volunteers have created a website, Facebook group, Instagram account and Twitter account. Delivery volunteers will wear red shirts and carry badges that identify them.

“Because we have no funding, we can move quickly. There is no bureaucracy,” he said. Still in the early stages and adapting to the rapidly changing landscape, Kim is in talks to join a rapidly forming county coalition, the Kupuna Food Security Coalition. The county is looking to aggregate several organizations to efficiently create a supply chain for seniors and those at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic as part of their response team.

“If you see something that needs to happen, do something,” said Kim.

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