Many North Hawaii residents know the local Rotary Club as a fun-loving group of people who know how to put on a great annual Oktoberfest at Pukalani Stables.
But the greater purpose for the Rotary Club of North Hawaii’s well-run benefit festivity is to allow them to fulfill their mission – serving others and promoting peace.
“One of the main things for Rotary Club is service above self,” said Kari Waldhaus, president of the Rotary Club of North Hawaii. “It is about giving, and there are a lot of ways we do that.”
Rotary International is a worldwide organization that began in 1905 and now has 1.2 million members. Its purpose is to help build goodwill and peace in the world. The local Rotary Club has about 35 members from throughout North Hawaii, and they meet weekly on Wednesdays at lunchtime. During their meetings they have time to network, listen to speakers and plan community service projects.
Waldhaus said that being part of a larger organization allows the group to have an organized program where they don’t have to “reinvent the wheel,” but they are able to personalize their club to fit the North Hawaii Community.
“Each club is autonomous in how they want to give,” Waldhaus said.
Waldhaus said that by bringing together Rotarians – who are all leaders in the community — they are able to collectively make a positive difference in the community through action, fulfilling scholarships and grants, international service and leadership development.
In addition to Oktoberfest, the group also has other fundraising events such as the Sunset Whale Sail and a “Feast on the Beach” party at Lava Lava Beach Club. All of the proceeds from the evenings go to providing community grants and student scholarships for education.
Hands on service
Rotarians are busy performing acts of community service throughout the year. Club members have helped build houses with Habitat for Humanity and do annual highway clean ups as well as other community projects.
“We want to be an active participant, not just writing checks,” Waldhaus said.
One service project of the Rotary Club of North Hawaii was the donation in December of a 14-passenger van to the Hamakua Youth Foundation to transport students.
They also help with international programs such as sending shelter boxes to the Philippines and monetary aid for computers to a school in Africa with the help of their sister club in Grahamstown, South Africa.
The Rotary Club of North Hawaii offers yearly scholarships for North Hawaii students – both academic and vocational scholarships. Scholarships benefit students from any of the North Hawaii schools, including home school students and students who live in North Hawaii and attend school outside of the area.
Waldhaus said a committee chooses scholarship recipients who are well rounded with good grades and SAT scores, proven leadership abilities and a record of community service and letters of reference. She said that for the vocational scholarships, grades are not as critical, but leadership, community service and commitment to following through on the training are essential elements.
Waldhaus said that through the interview process, they get to know the students and they feel connected to them; and they like to watch their progress beyond the scholarship distribution.
“What is nice is that many of them follow up on how they are doing, especially the top recipients,” Waldhaus said. “Some of them come back and talk to us about their experience. Hopefully, we make an impact on their lives.”
The group also provides scholarship grants for Rotary Youth Leadership Awards Camp – an annual leadership program at Kilauea Military Camp in Volcano to help students learn to be leaders in the community. This year’s event was Jan. 21-23.
Rotary Club of North Hawaii also gives out annual community grants based on need.
Last year, the Rotary Club of North Hawaii awarded $8,000 in grants to community organizations on Hawaii Island. The amount distributed is based on what they are able to fundraise annually, so it varies per year.
Rotarian Erik Jacobson, the grant chairman, said they usually receive about 15 applications per year from a variety of groups and organizations throughout North Hawaii. The deadline for submitting grant applications is fast approaching – a March 31 deadline – so interested community programs should apply as soon as possible. Viable projects do not need to be nonprofit, but should target health, human services or youth activities and must benefit the North Hawaii community.
“We seem to be drawn to afterschool programs targeted at school age kids, but we give money to other organizations as well — anybody in the community that has that need for a little bit of extra,” Jacobson said of the community grant.
An application for the Rotary Club’s Community Grant is available on their website.
Send the original to: The Rotary Club of North Hawaii, Grants Committee Chairperson, P.O. Box 1997, Kamuela, HI, 96743, and must be postmarked no later than, March 31. Or email the form to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the Rotary Club of North Hawaii, visit their website at www.north-hawaii-rotary.org or visit their Facebook page.