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Contractors, developers team up to donate food on rural Oahu

A hui of 14 contractors, developers and the Great Aloha Run donated a total of $260,000 in two days to create three food distribution sites on Oahu this month to try to keep up with the ongoing demand for food amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was never any question about builders chipping in, said Randy Hiraki, president of Kalihi-based Commercial Plumbing Inc.

The Hawaii Foodbank already has 33 food drives planned across Oahu this month. But the push to add three events driven by the private sector came from Mayor Kirk Caldwell and businessman Duane Kurisu, who — among other efforts — spearheaded the successful Kahauiki Village near Sand Island on North Nimitz Highway for formerly homeless families.

Getting pledges from other contractors and developers to donate money and manpower for three new food drives during the COVID-19 pandemic “was really easy to do once we mentioned the cause and our appreciation that the mayor kept construction essential and we all got to keep working,” Hiraki said. “What Duane has done for the community and for Hawaii is just amazing. We couldn’t say no.”

The new distribution sites will be focused on providing food to rural parts of Oahu on the leeward and windward sides and on the North Shore. Unlike other food distribution locations, the new ones are only for residents who live around each site. Everyone must register in advance at hawaiifoodbank.org to receive a number that will be required to receive food. No walk-ins will be allowed.

Times and locations are:

>> 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at Windward Community College for 1,000 windward households from Waimanalo to Kualoa who live in the 96795, 96734 and 96744 ZIP codes.

>> 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 18 at Waianae Mall for 1,500 leeward households from Waipahu to Kaena Point who live in the 96797, 96706, 96707 and 96792 ZIP codes.

>> 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 25 at the Polynesian Cultural Center for 750 North Shore households in the 96730, 96717, 96762, 96731, 96712 and 96791 ZIP codes.

The upcoming food drives follow a June 30 donation of $75,000 that City Mill made to the Hawaii Foodbank, which included customer donations.

City Mill’s “Spare Change” program encouraged customers to round up their purchases to the nearest dollar and donate the change to the Hawaii Foodbank. The campaign ran at City Mill stores from April 20 to June 21 and 100% of the proceeds were donated.

The issue of food insecurity is “getting closer to home” for friends and family of some of Hiraki’s employees and competitors.

“So as far as getting volunteers to help, it was no problem,” he said. “People are just very, very, very appreciative to give back.”

Hiraki said the Hawaii Foodbank also asked for volunteers and there was no problem getting commitments from 60 to 70 employees to lend a hand at each of the three upcoming sites.

Hiraki, who plans to volunteer at all three locations, said the efforts by his fellow contractors and developers shows that any island industry can gather its forces to generate donations and volunteers.

“We’re grateful for this private-sector partnership between the construction, development and other industries that will help feed Hawaii’s families during this unprecedented time,” Hawaii Foodbank President and CEO Ron Mizutani said in a statement.

“While Hawaii Foodbank distributed more than 2.1 million pounds of food in 11 mass food distributions in April, May and June, and reached an estimated 40,000 households and 150,000 people, we felt it was extremely important to find more ways to reach families in rural areas. We believe implementing a pre-registration process for specific ZIP codes will ensure families who live in these communities and need assistance will receive it. We also believe this will help reduce traffic in the areas being served.”

Surveys at recent food drives have shown that 78% to 83% of food recipients were unemployed or furloughed because of COVID-19, Mizutani said.

In a statement to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Kurisu, chairman of the Hawaii Executive Collaborative and founder of aio Group, said, “We are fortunate that many of the people in the construction business, led by Randy Hiraki and Dexter Kubota, have stepped up to the call. To help support those that need help.

“What is special is about their humility to serve, especially because many of those in need are those who have never been in this situation before.

“For some it’s shame, but you know we all would do whatever we need to do to feed our children.”

Kurisu ended by saying that he hopes the efforts of the construction and development industries becomes “an example for others who have the resources to do so to step up and help those who are less fortunate in these trying times.”

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