Big Island initiative creates community hubs to support residents during COVID

Updated: Mar. 5, 2021 at 6:49 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a mission to help Hawaii Island residents during the pandemic, an organization is working to open community hubs to provide resources to families.

Vibrant Hawaii, an initiative that brings together local organizations and community leaders, is now creating “Resilience Hubs” thanks to a donation from Kohala Coast residents.

The hubs are designed to create a safe learning space for Hawaii youth, provide access to WiFi and laptops and worked with restaurants to prepare meals and supply produce bags.

“We try to hit all those gap areas where everyone is struggling right now,” said the department’s deputy director Michelle Hiraishi. “And especially even more so in our rural communities.”

In addition to providing up-to-date information related to COVID-19 mitigation, the hubs provide resources for the financial, emotional and social impacts of the pandemic.

“Each hub you go to, it looks different,” said Tim Bostock, the captain of the Waimea Resilience Hub.

For example, the Waimea hub, housed at St. James Church, focuses on feeding kupuna. On the other hand, at the Honomu Resilience Hub, students are busy getting help with school.

“The gap that we’re bridging is with students,” said Gabrielle, the captain for the Honomu hub. “Students will come several days a week and get help.”

Each hub is supported by a number of organizations. The Honomu hub, for example, is supported by not only Vibrant Hawaii but also Hawaii County Parks and Recreation, Papaaloa Country Store, Asami’s Kitchen and Lucy’s Taqueria, The Food Basket and Hawaii Botanical.

Leaders say this collaboration is able to provide meals, classes and even take-home activities through the hub.

This initiative was first launched between September and December of last year and originally received CARES Act funding from Hawaii County.

With new funds from Kohala Coast residents, the initiative is now able to run through May and is expected to support up to 3,000 individuals per week.

Since the start of the initiative, there have been 20 community hubs set up across Hawaii Island.

More than 30 communities around the island have been served, assisting nearly 42,000 households and roughly 108,000 individuals. Of these individuals, 38% of them were under the age of 18.

Vibrant Hawaii said that it hopes to continue providing resources and mentorship to assist residents in order to revitalize the economy and build capacity and infrastructure to prepare communities for anything.

These community hubs plan to increase access to internet in neighborhoods that currently have poor to no service through WiFi connections, provide emergency food distributions and serve as a hub of resources for various public and private assistance programs including Financial Empowerment Centers, Navigation Programs, and Digital Literacy.

“We’re very excited to have people from the community step up and provide some services like this,” said Mason Souza, Hawaii County Recreation Administrator. “The kids really deserve this. They can come here, be social. That is very important.”

Community hubs can be found at these locations:

  • Hamakua: Honomu Gym, Papaikou Gym, Hamakua Youth Foundation, Pohaha I Ka Lani
  • East Hawaii: Island of Hawaii YMCA, Kawananakoa Gym, Panaewa Farmers Market, UH Hilo, Waiakea Uka Gym
  • Puna: Leilani Estates Neighborhood Watch, Men of Paa x Kanaka O Puna
  • Kau: Naalehu Hongwanji x O Kau Kakou, Pahala Resilience Hub
  • Kohala: Kailapa Community Association, Feed Hawaii, Overflow Church x Partners in Development, St. James Church, Waimea District Park
  • West Hawaii: Kama’aina Hale Apartments, Milolii Kokua Hub

For more information, click here.

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