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Tuesday, December 05, 2023

Kaʻū News Briefs December 5, 2023

Stanley Brooks, born in Wai‘ōhinu, was the main Santa at Ala Moana. He was called the Hawaiian Santa.
Photo from Ala Moana

A QUIET MAN WHO TRANSFORMED INTO SANTA for thousands of children at Christmastime lived in Pāhala for 15 years while being the star Santa at Ala Moana Center on O'ahu, and in Hilo. Stanley Brooks passed away this year. His wife, Madelyne Maluhia “Babs” Brooks, remains in Pāhala and parents their grandson Kekui.
  “You’re not the real Santa, you’re Hawaiian,” was the kidding from many children who sat on his lap at Ala Moana and Hilo. Hawaiian Santa would reply that he was helping “Santa who was at the North Pole, but this Santa is from South Point,” revealing his Ka‘ū roots. He was one of seven, born and raised in Wai‘ōhinu to Ema Kealikiholokahiki and Stanley Brooks, Sr. His grandfather was Martin Martinson, Sr. known as Kupupa. He managed Kahuku Ranch for 31 years.

    When children told Stanley Brooks, the Hawaiian Santa at Ala Moana and Hilo, that they went to Nā‘ālehu Elementary, he would sometimes slip that he did too, to the astonishment of the keiki. Brooks had many Santa names, from the Hawaiian Santa to Santa Stan. His wife said, “He loved children and could see the warmth of a child’s heart through only a Santa’s eyes.”
    She said he was particularly drawn to children on this island who tended to ask for simple and inexpensive gifts. Many would ask for Santa to help others, like “Can grandma have a tree?” “Can mommy and daddy be happy?” “Can you find my daddy a job?” “Can you cure grandma’s cancer?” The comments revealed children’s understanding of hard times and their deep involvement with their families, said Babs Brooks. When Hawaiian Santa heard families pulling back from photos with Santa, he often called them over for the photos manuahi - no cost.
    Babs Brooks said that her Santa’s “love for Ka‘ū ran deep, and he could never move too far away as he commuted from Ka‘ū to Hilo and Ala Moana ” to be the the main Santa - the Hawaiian Santa.
    Another practice for a decade was on each Christmas morning, he traveled to Hilo to Under His Wings Ministry to be with homeless children. He gave them gifts and encouragement. “That was one of his most cherished memories with children who were less fortunate,” said his wife. “His philosophy as Santa was that the children need to have hope in something, in this troubled world.” Many were without religion, and “Santa was the only thing they could believe in. So he delivered that hope and expressed his love for them.” While most people saw Stanley Brooks as loving and compassionate with a quietness about him, Babb Brooks said, when Christmas came around, “it completely transformed him.”
    Babs Brooks traveled to O'ahu last weekend with Kekui to meet the new Santa at Ala Moana who told them that keiki were asking for the Hawaiian Santa. The new Santa said he tells them that Hawaiian Santa went to heaven, said Brooks. She will give a talk at Wailoa State Park on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. for Hospice. She said she will focus on lessons from her husband on loving your family, giving children hope and serving others.

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ORGANIZATIONS THAT ADDRESS HOMELESSNESS WILL RECEIVE OVER $9.7 MILLION on this island, with County Council approval. County of Hawai'i Office of Housing & Community Development announced projects that target an array of initiatives from permanent supportive housing to substance abuse and mental health     
an array of initiatives from permanent supportive housing to substance abuse and mental health treatment to providing services to community members who need assistance in connecting to stable housing opportunities. Also funded are programs providing hygiene outreach, street medicine and family reunification for persons experiencing homelessness.
    "Together with our non-profit community partners we are working to bolster the programs and services that play a vital role in protecting and uplifting some of the most vulnerable members of our community on Hawai'i Island," said county Housing Administrator Susan Kunz.
    Funding comes from the Homelessness and Housing Fund created in 2022 through County Ordinance 22-26, which appropriates 75 percent of tier two property tax revenues annually to address homelessness
and housing on Hawaiʻi Island. The funding is set to expire in 2027.
    On Aug. 3, Office of Housing issued a Request For Proposal seeking applicants to carry out priorities outlined in the Strategic Roadmap for Homelessness and Housing released in September 2022. Office of Housing received 31 proposals from community organizations requesting over $16.2 million, far exceeding the available amount to potentially award in this second of an expected five fiscal years of appropriations.
    Recommended funds for organizations and proposals are:

$525,000 to West Hawai'i Community Health Center, which merged with Bay Clinic to form Hawai'i Island Community Health Center. The grant is for its project called Hawai'i Island Street Medicine Program;

$362,060 to Mental Health Kokua for its Supportive Housing & Workforce Development Program;

$237,296 to Bridge House, Inc. for its Recovery Housing;

$281,486 to Going Home Hawai'i for its Re-entry & Recovery Housing Program;

$288,933 to Project Vision Hawai'i for Hygiene Outreach and Street Medicine;
$1.2 million to Big Island Substance Abuse Council for its Malmapono Center;

$250,000 to Big Island Substance abuse Council for its Mohala Family Center;

$213,920 to The Salvation Army - Family Intervention Services for Transitional Housing Program;

$285,530 to The Salvation Army's Family Intervention Services Transitional Housing Program;

$690,817 to Going Home Hawai'i for its Hawai' Island Frequent Users System and Justice- involved Services Project;

$166,000 to Habitat for Humanity Hawai'i Island for Construction Capacity Building;

$137,000 to Lokahi Treatment Centers for Integrated Substance abuse and Menal Health Treatment for Homeless and At-Risk Individuals;

$214,210 to Neighborhood Place of Puna for its Pathways to Excellence in Practice;

$307,684 to Neighborhood Place of Puna for its 'Ohana Homelessness Prevention & Support Program;

$286,459 to Neighborhood Place of Puna for its Coordination Center Program;

$1.64 million to HOPE Services Hawai'i for Hale Kulike and Keolahou shelters;

$331,990.32 to HOPE Services Hawai'i, Inc. for its Kihei Pua Emergency Shelter;

$867,635.17 to HOPE Services Hawai'i, Inc. for Ending Homelessness Through Behavioral Health & Mental Health Services;

$195,985.87 to HOPE Services Hawai'i, Inc. for Hale Maluhia Emergency Shelter;

$374,564.67 to HOPE Services Hawai'i, Inc. for West Hawai'i Emergency Housing Program;
$292,304 to 808 Homeless Task Force for Family Reunification Program;

$641,802.67 to Child & Family Service for expansion of Hale 'Ohana.

MARKING COMPLETION OF HIS FIRST YEAR IN OFFICE, GOV. JOSH GREEN GAVE a talk on Tuesday about his challenges and accomplishments, including "bold actions he has taken to serve the people of Hawai'i," says the statement from his office.
   The Governor, who started his medical practice in Kaʻū, said his new administration addressed the highest cost of living in the U.S.; the second-highest rate of homelessness per capita; the long-festering affordable housing shortage of some 50,000 units; the Red Hill water contamination crisis; a teacher shortage impacting public education for keiki; a shortage of healthcare workers especially in rural communities; ongoing gun violence and "the previously unimaginable devastation suffered in the Maui wildfires."
   The speech circled back to priorities he outlined in his inaugural State of the State Address in January. He noted that he introduced and passed the first phase of the Green Affordability Plan to reduce the high cost of living for working families, providing $104 million in direct income tax relief for ALICE families (Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, Employed). Green said he will seek $250 million in additional relief for Hawai'i families, via the child and dependent tax credit this year.
   In January, Green signed the first Emergency Proclamation on Homelessness "to cut through red tape, allowing for construction of up to 12 kauhale villages statewide in the coming years."  The first medical respite kauhale, Pūlama Ola, was opened in May, adjacent to the Governor's mansion. The idea was to
Gov. Josh Green and First Lady Jaime Kanani Green celebrating the completion of
his first year in office on Tuesday. Photo from Governor's Office

lead by example in changing the mindset to "Yes In My Backyard," from "Not In My Backyard." More kauhale to house the houseless are in the pipeline for construction, he said.
    To help keep Hawai'i's people at home in the islands, said Green, he exercised his emergency powers to create a committee of the state's leading housing experts to fast-track the development of affordable housing projects. Some 10,800 units of new affordable housing for working families at the state's nine public housing properties were immediately approved and more affordable housing units — as well as homesteads for Department of Hawaiian Home Lands beneficiaries, are coming, said the Governor.
    Another 800 new housing units planned by county governments and private developers have also broken ground or opened this year.
    "Protecting the health and safety of our people and preserving our precious environmental resources have been top priorities, said Green. The statement from his office said, "His leadership alongside state and county officials has resulted in important progress on draining fuel from Red Hill so it can finally be shut down for good. The draining of up to 250 million gallons from Red Hill's 20 mammoth tanks – the U.S. military's largest underground fuel storage facility -- began five months ahead of schedule."
    Concerning education, the statement said, "Green's commitment to public education was demonstrated in the successful negotiation of a new four-year contract with the Hawai'i State Teachers Association and the 13,500 teachers it represents, in April of this year. With its substantial pay raises for new hires and bonuses for experienced professionals, the contract has paid dividends with teaching positions being filled, vacancies dropping, keeping more and more teachers from leaving the educational field."
Gov. Josh Green and staff as he reviews his first year in office. Photo from the Governor's Office
   Regarding healthcare, the statement said, "As the only active physician-governor in the U.S., Governor Green's announcement of the Healthcare Education Loan Repayment Program begins to address the severe shortage of healthcare professionals in the state. The HELP program has already awarded 585 healthcare licensees in exchange for two years of full-time or half-time service in Hawai'i, providing care for at least 30% vulnerable patients. This ensures that access to care will be improved for the underserved, especially in rural communities."
   The speech also pointed to gun violence and "the state's first meaningful gun buyback in decades, in October. Nearly 500 firearms were turned in, taken off our streets in exchange for grocery gift cards. This initiative, along with the Governor's commitment to creating safe places from guns, and his signing of key firearms-related legislation on National Gun Violence Awareness Day, will help make our communities safer and protect our keiki from deadly violence."
    Concerning Lahaina, the statement said, "The most devastating disaster most kama'āina will ever see, killed 100 of our loved ones and destroyed most of historic Lahaina Town on August 8. The Lahaina Fire is considered to have been the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in more than a century. Governor Green's request to President Biden for federal assistance was approved within hours and since then, survivors and displaced residents have received more than $120 million in housing assistance, and will receive another $130 million in state and federal aid. Additional aid will be offered to those who lost loved ones or who were severely injured in the fires through the Governor's Maui Relief Fund, as part of his One 'Ohana Initiative.
    "The Governor and our state partners work daily to find longer-term housing solutions for our Maui neighbors and the Department of Human Services has just announced a Rental Assistance Program to help people relocate from hotel rooms to homes. Governor Green also has provided $12.5 million in emergency grants through Maui Economic Opportunity for businesses affected by the wildfire."
    See more on the Governor's address in the Wednesday Kaʻū News Briefs.

Volcano Art Center, open daily. See www.volcanoartcenter.org