Meet nine Islanders who are making life in Hawaii better for those who most need the help.
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After working for decades with IBM in Austin, Texas, Lois Reiswig moved to Maui with her husband, who wanted to golf year-round. She warned him, “If I don’t find a community there, I’m moving back.” Ten years later, Reiswig is fully engaged in one that she actually helped to create.
She started off by joining causes that she cared about—including the Maui Arts & Culture Center and Hawaii Community Foundation’s Leadership Council—and subsequently found a way for others to do the same. “Learn about Maui and give back to the community … and you’ll love this island like I do,” says the exuberant 63-year-old. Every month for the past seven years, Reiswig has organized a Hui Hoaloha lunch that brings together women from different parts of Maui to meet one another and hear about various nonprofit organizations from their directors. The lively gathering of 50 or more attendees includes not only new residents and part-timers, but locals, too. For Reiswig, the road map is clear: “Find a nonprofit that supports your passion and get involved.”
Frank Sayre and Laura Mallery-Sayre
Daniel R. Sayre Memorial Foundation
On the day before he was to return to college on the Mainland, 25-year-old Danny Sayre hiked to the back of Pololu Valley near Kapaloa Falls to visit the place he called his cathedral on the Big Island. Tragically, that visit turned out to be Danny’s last.
His devastated parents, Frank Sayre and Laura Mallery-Sayre, could only stand by helplessly as multiple attempts to rescue their son from a 500-foot fall to the valley floor failed and the mission was aborted. “That’s when three men volunteered to move forward with the mission—knowing that they were putting their own lives in danger,” recalls Laura. The rescue was in such a narrow and densely bushed gorge that tree limbs were shredded by the helicopter as two firefighters dropped into the canyon to retrieve Daniel’s body, only yards away from a 1,000-foot waterfall.
“We decided that a memorial fund honoring the Hawaii County Fire Department was the best way to show our gratitude,” said Frank. Twelve years later, the couple has organized annual award ceremonies for heroes like the men who showed them such bravery and compassion, and the community has stepped up with donations of over $500,000 for greatly needed rescue equipment, including longer ropes. In memory of one life lost, others have been saved.
Foster Family Programs of Hawaii
Though his business—Hawaii Self Storage—is all about keeping stuff, his philanthropic bent is all about giving it away. “It’s not about how much money you make,” says Mike Wood, “it’s about how much you can do with your money.”
A great deal, in the case of 69-year-old Wood, starting with a $1 million donation to help build a receiving home in Maili for foster children that opened in April. But it doesn’t stop at that amount and it doesn’t stop at writing a check. Along with countless hours as a volunteer for Foster Family Programs of Hawaii, Wood is donating another $8.2 million to assist in the operating costs of Hoomalu O Na Kamalii over the next 20 years.
Wood’s hands-on style of philanthropy extends to his employees, whom he encourages to volunteer, and to his customers, who can designate a charity to which the company will contribute. Needy customers can apply for any one of a number of programs—ranging from scholarships for high school seniors to free storage for folks who’ve been laid off or foreclosed (“Transition Assistance Program”) to books for first graders (“Lockers 4 Literacy”). More abundant than all of the stuff in all of his lockers is Wood’s storehouse of goodwill.
Jana Wolff is a well-known writer, and an unknown ghostwriter, based in Honolulu. Her last piece for the magazine was “Second Acts.”