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When the pandemic sacked revenue, Kauai community hub survived to keep serving

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Anaina Hou is not just any regular park.

Rather, it’s a sprawling campus on Kauai’s north shore — a home for mini golf, live music, weddings, and a farmers market.

Originally founded by late philanthropist and Kauai resident Bill Porter, the community hub found itself trying to survive after COVID-19 crushed its finances.

“It’s about 95% group oriented and that’s about the last thing that works well in a pandemic is group activities,” said Anaina Hou executive director Jill Lowry. “So we lost 95% of our revenue within 30 days and it’s been a challenge. Finances have been a challenge.”

Pre-pandemic, the park had 20 employees on staff, one of which just joined the team two months before the virus arrived.

“It was very bizarre,” said Ben Karon, Anaina Hou director of operations. “I was hired to do events here initially and so to have our entire events program completely shut down within the first 60 days of me being brought on definitely was uncomfortable.”

Even with no revenue from events, the park stepped up and used its 15 acres in any capacity by setting up a free COVID testing center, a distribution site for the Kauai North Shore Food Pantry, and a drive-thru farmers market to support the island’s growers.

“They’ve got food going bad and nowhere to send it, so what they really lose is the access point for the community to come and get the food,” Karon explained.

Vaccinations have helped the Park return to pre-COVID events.

However, as the Delta variant spreads, they’re well aware closures could return, but there are no plans to recede into the forest.

“It’s better to hold on with your bare teeth if need be and just be present because as soon as you shut those doors for good, you become invisible and you have a lot of work to try to recapture everything,” Lowry said.

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