Hawai‘i Gives Back: 5 Smaller Nonprofits Doing Great Community Work

Across the state, there are so many needs, so much work to be done. And Hawai‘i steps up to help again and again. Here’s a handful of some organizations you may not have heard of that are doing tremendous work every day, from helping children to promoting Hawaiian arts and culture and so much more.


Great Idea Camp Anuenue

Photos: Courtesy of Camp Ānuenue



Camp Ānuenue

Camp Ānuenue has offered a summer camp experience for kids dealing with cancer since 1985. Whether in active treatment, in remission or a cancer survivor, these kids get to be kids—swimming, zip lining, doing arts and crafts, and team building—for one week on the lush grounds of Camp Mokulē‘ia on O‘ahu’s North Shore. The kids also join with Camp Ānuenue staff members to honor those lost over the years and to share their experiences with peers who understand.


When the American Cancer Society made a national decision to divert funding from programs like this one to focus on treatments and trials, Camp Ānuenue alumni and donors kicked into gear and committed to raising the money needed to keep the program going. Most of the staff and counselors are previous campers, so they know the challenging journey these kids face.


Childhood cancer survivor B.K. Cannon, the program’s director, attended Camp Ānuenue 22 years ago and knows the program’s power. “Camp saved my life in ways that medicine could not,” she says simply.



Great Idea Kids Hurt Too

Photos: Courtesy of Kids Hurt Too Hawai‘i



Kids Hurt Too Hawai‘i

Named by the kids it serves and celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Kids Hurt Too Hawai‘i provides services as broad as the need. “We can’t prevent domestic violence, victimization of children and loss of family members. But we can provide resources that help children cope with those difficult situations,” says Cynthia White, co-founder and executive director.


White’s team provides loss and age-specific therapeutic peer-support groups; community-based mentoring to build connections and strengthen families; training for volunteer facilitators, organizations and schools; crisis intervention after a homicide, suicide, accident or disaster; and workforce development for at-risk teenagers and young adults.



Great Idea Kauahea

Photo: Courtesy of Kauahea Inc.



Kauahea Inc.

When she first envisioned Kauahea Inc. back in 1975, founder Hokulani Holt wanted to create space and opportunities to share, celebrate and perpetuate Hawaiian culture—not just in Hawai‘i, but on the mainland and around the world. She succeeded, with place-based learning on 5 acres on Maui, hula hālau across the state, and professionally produced hula dramas that have toured the world.


Kauahea’s vision is centered on the notion that Hawaiian culture is passed down from generation to generation, starting with the Hawaiian language and including lei making, cultural practices, appreciation of place, and knowledge and reverence for both the land and sea. Programs focus on all areas of Hawaiian culture and are open to all ages.



Great Idea Bottles4college

Photos: Courtesy of Bottles 4 College



Bottles 4 College

Thirteen-year-old Genshu Price of O‘ahu, with the encouragement and help of his dad, started collecting recyclables with hopes of earning enough money to pay for college. His idea quickly grew beyond just one college education, and now Bottles 4 College is collecting recyclables at numerous drop spots around the island and has partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawai‘i to turn rubbish gathered at beach cleanups into college tuition money. What started as a project to fill a pickup with recyclables has become a multifaceted endeavor to fill box trucks and create scholarships.


Genshu has big plans, aiming to recycle between 2 million and 4 million cans and bottles annually and to fund as many as two scholarships each year. Besides the drop sites at places such as King Intermediate, Kualoa Ranch, and Lōkahi Farmers Market in Kailua, Bottles 4 College also partners with various events around the island, spreading the word and filling bags with cans and bottles. Genshu is not only making college possible for himself and others, he’s doing his part for the environment.



Great Idea Kupuna Food Security

Photos: Courtesy of Kūpuna Food Security Coalition



Kūpuna Food Security Coalition

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the state’s food and hunger-related nonprofits knew the work ahead of them. They also knew that strength comes in numbers and through collaboration. At the urging of the Hawai‘i Public Health Institute, the various nonprofits, along with government groups, private companies and community members, quickly coalesced, forming the Kūpuna Food Security Coalition. They met weekly, gathering data on the many areas of need, then combining resources to meet those needs strategically, sending the right providers to the communities they could best serve and ensuring that they weren’t duplicating efforts.


The coalition quickly realized the value of the partnership and made the organization permanent so that it could continue to marshal existing resources and make an impact in food security across the state. It has also expanded its focus to address the needs of kūpuna who wish to age in place.


With more than 30 partner members offering broad depth and perspective, the coalition is able to analyze real data about the needs, and to address those needs comprehensively. What was a COVID-19 pop-up is now the umbrella that protects and cares for our kūpuna.