Elena Colobong And Lokahi Giving Project

Christina O'Connor
Wednesday - November 30, 2011
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Walking through the rows of shelves at the Lokahi Giving Project’s donation center, executive director and co-founder Mariellen Jones (pictured, left) and volunteer Elena Colobong (right) look distraught. It’s a month before Christmas, when Lokahi is supposed to deliver donated items to thousands of families statewide. But this year, no matter how you look at it, these donation shelves are definitely half-empty. “Usually, the shelves are very, very full the week of Thanksgiving,” Jones laments.

Jones started Lokahi in 1985. “The average person in Hawaii is making barely more than (poverty-level wages),” says Jones. “So we wanted to create a charity that not only helps the poorest of the poor ... but also what we call the gap group.” Lokahi offers a range of year-round programs, including donation drives for new parents, back-to-school drives, as well as the holiday programs.

With the hard times at Lokahi this year, Jones is thankful for volunteers like Colobong, a recent UH-Manoa graduate with a degree in communications. Utilizing her skills in PR and marketing, she is instrumental in Lokahi’s outreach coordinating email blasts, newsletters and events. She also is a key player in its growing social media presence. “(I hope) to help move the organization from where it is now to a place of more visibility online and within the community,” Colobong says.

Despite tough times, Colobong and Jones say that the good news is it’s not too late you can still help save Christmas. Needed items include toys, gift cards, clothes, baby items and gifts for all ages. But, “a lot of the families that are in need are in need of the basic stuff,” Colobong says. The top-requested items are toiletries, cleaning products and linens.

“We can meet all of these goals if everybody does something,” Jones says.

At Lokahi’s upcoming events, you can donate an item or join the Adopt-A-Family giving program. Events include Lokahi Day Dec. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Ala Moana and Windward Mall; Candyland Christmas Dec. 3 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Mililani Shopping Center; and the Honolulu Marathon Expo Dec. 7 to Dec. 10. Donations can be delivered at Lokahi’s warehouse at 761 Ilaniwai Street in Honolulu. For more events and info, visit lokahigivingproject.com.

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