Since Help Is On The Way started at the beginning of the pandemic, has anything changed in demand for the service or supply of volunteers?
A lot has changed over the months. The demand for food, supplies and assistance has grown with prolonged unemployment, while the availability of volunteers has declined with the reopening of the state.
At the same time, kupuna are more fearful of venturing out into the community to shop and run errands as the virus spreads and more people are out in public.
We are also experiencing a greater demand for food. In the early months of the pandemic, clients were generally requesting pickups of purchased items from grocery stores and other outlets. But in recent months, more and more kupuna are telling us that they do not have sufficient resources to feed themselves.
In response, we have stepped up our efforts to deliver free food bags to kupuna.
Could you describe the tasks performed and the clientele? Is it mainly picking up and delivering purchases, or are there other errands?
We pick up and deliver, at no charge, just about anything to kupuna and other vulnerable people, so that they may stay safely at home during the pandemic.
This includes groceries and household goods, prepared and frozen meals, farmers market items, toiletries, medical prescriptions, appliances, and any other items that need to get from Point A to Point B. One of my most unique assignments was picking up a urine sample from a client and delivering it to a diagnostic clinic.
Although we do not shop or handle money, we try our best to guide them to available agencies and resources. Through our own food drives, we also raise our own supply of nonperishable groceries and toiletries, and deliver them on request to kupuna and other vulnerable people in need.
What are the expenses you have, and how do you raise money to cover them?
Help Is On The Way is a Hawaii nonprofit. We did not seek a tax exemption because we have no expenses and we do not need any funding.
We are a 100% grassroots volunteer organization, and everyone pays their own expenses. The absence of the restrictions and requirements that come with funding has given us the agility and freedom to move quickly to help people in need.
Are there any risks, and protocols volunteers follow to remain safe?
We realize that the safety of our clients, and thus the vetting and training of our volunteers, are paramount to our success. From the start, we have been vetting our volunteers with interviews and references, and have required volunteers to participate in training and an onboarding process.
We also mitigate the risk to our clients and volunteers with specific safety protocols for volunteers to follow when on delivery. These protocols include wearing masks, staying a safe distance away from clients when making a delivery, washing and sanitizing hands when on delivery, and removing oneself from service if the volunteer has been exposed to COVID-19, subject to quarantine, recently on travel, or symptomatic.
The vetting and training process has served us well, with what we consider some of the most caring, kind-hearted, competent and motivated volunteers in the state.
Do you feel concerned about keeping up, as activity and the COVID-19 case levels increase?
Yes. When we began, many people were sitting at home under the stay-at-home orders, with nothing much to do. Under those circumstances, we could quickly tap that resource to recruit volunteers. People wanted to help, and had the time to do it.
Because we were an “essential” business, our volunteers were permitted to make deliveries even with the stay-at-home orders in effect.
With the state now reopening, many of our volunteers are returning to work, and taking naturally advantage of the availability of shopping, activities and dining in, which is good for our economy.
If you combine that with the increasing need for services because of the rise of COVID-19, and greater concern within vulnerable communities, it will be challenging to keep up with the demand.
To meet the demand, we are continuing seek great volunteers to join the effort.
THE BIO FILE
>> Title: President and co-founder, Help Is On The Way (hihelpisontheway.org).
>> Professional history: Founder of Vantage Counsel LLC, a legal consultancy; 37 years in law practice, including as a partner with Goodsill Anderson Quinn & Stifel in Honolulu and work with law firms based in the Silicon Valley and the Bay Area.
>> Family: Wife Paris, and sons River and St. John.
>> Other community work: Co-founder of Business Law Corps, a legal-services nonprofit; founding member of HIBEAM, Hawaii’s first high-tech accelerator
>> One more thing: I play bagpipes with the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii, and trombone with the Oahu College Band and the Oahu Civic Orchestra. I am also pursuing a doctorate in ministry from the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, Calif., focusing my research on the convergence of entrepreneurship and spirituality.