Serving The Community

By Bill Tobin
Wednesday - April 13, 2005
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Bill Tobin and a handful of the Tiki’s Grill & Bar staff

I grew up in a small town in Nebraska called Tekamah with a population of 2,000. In a town of that size, there’s a tendency to look after each other. While I was in high school, my friends and I, with the support of various business leaders, established a youth center. It was a safe, fun place where kids of all ages, from elementary to high school, could hang out especially during the cold winter months. That was my first taste of doing something good in the community, and it felt great.

After serving in the Army, I moved to Hawaii to attend the University of Hawaii. At the UH, I belonged to the Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity, which stressed community service projects. We did everything from cleaning the grounds at the Ronald McDonald House to clean-ups at beaches. Two of my fraternity brothers, Kelly McGill and Greg Montgomery,would later become my partners in opening Tiki’s Grill & Bar.

While waiting for Tiki’s to be built in 2002, I had some time on my hands and became a loaned executive to Aloha United Way (AUW). My main responsibility was managing the campaigns for more than 50 organizations. Before then, I didn’t know that AUW programs, directly or indirectly, touch one out of every two people in Hawaii. That’s amazing. This eight-week experience opened up my eyes to the needs in our community and fueled my passion for charitable work. I learned that lending a helping hand can truly change lives.

When Tiki’s was set to open, my partners Kelly McGill, Greg Montgomery and I believed the key to the restaurant’s success would be to give back to the community. We developed “Project Pookela,” a community-wide program that teaches Tiki’s staff the importance of being a part of the larger community by participating in philanthropic events. Our very first activity, a month before the restaurant’s opening, was taking two busloads of job applicants to the USS Missouri to polish brass, swab the decks and do other clean-up work as part of the AUW’s Day of Caring. This was followed by our grand opening events, in which Tiki’s donated all the labor, food and beverages, raising $22,500 for Aloha United Way, Shriners Children’s Transportation Fund and the Waikiki Community Center.

As part of Project Pookela, our employees are committed to perform at least one community service project each month. I’m proud to say that this program is still very much a part of our corporate culture in our third year of business. Activities range from blood drives, beach clean-ups and Christmas gift collections for shelters for abused women and children, to participation in a variety of events for the American Red Cross, Carole Kai Charities, Easter Seals Hawaii, Foodbank of Hawaii, Hawaii Hotel Association, among other nonprofit organizations.

Since October 2002, Tiki’s has donated more than $72,000 in monetary and in-kind donations and 3,200 employee hours back to the community. While we don’t do this for the glory, we were very honored to be recognized with the Hawaii Restaurant Neighbor Award” by the National Restaurant Association and the AUW’s Best First Time Campaign” in 2003.

Today Tiki’s employs some 180 people. We’re in the service business, so that’s a good reason to serve the community. Another reason is purely personal. I’ve made Hawaii my home, and I’ve thankful to everyone for accepting me. This is my way to give back and help strengthen the future of Hawaii for my son Toby.

I believe that if you can make positive impact in one person’s life, you can make a world of a difference. Serving the community can change the lives of many people. Together, we can help change the world.

Next week: Stephen Kula, executive director of The Arc in Hawaii

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