If generosity is genetic, the Baldwin family must have philanthropy running through its blood. The longtime Maui family, whose roots run deep in Hawaii's history, knows that paying it forward is more than a motto - it's a lifestyle. "We give what we can when we can. I feel like it's just something we do in our family and it's always been ingrained in us," says Kristina Lyons, Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation board of trustees president, and fifth-generation family member. Lyons' father is the late Maui businessman and philanthropist Michael Lyons II.
The Baldwins' tradition of giving dates back to the early 1870s when Henry Perrine Baldwin, who owned a modest sugar plantation with brother-in-law Samuel Alexander, made good on a promise. As the story goes, the two businessmen faced a serious drought that threatened their fledgling plantation. Desperate for a break, Baldwin jumped off his horse, knelt to the ground and vowed that if God sent rain, he would donate a portion of his earnings. The rain came and the rest, as they say, is history.
The family kept its word, establishing schools, libraries, churches and other establishments throughout the island. Then in 1910, Henry Perrine Baldwin and Emily Alexander Baldwin created a foundation in honor of their son Fred Baldwin, whose untimely death at age 24 devastated the family. While on vacation in New York before beginning work in the family business, Fred's appendix ruptured and he died after undergoing an emergency appendectomy.
Photo courtesy of Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center
Young artists at the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center include Caitlyn Campbell (from left), Summer Wong, Talitha Khanlari, Jaxon Chester, Jasmine Trautman, Lily Janneck, Sean Janneck, Sienna Biegelow, Lea Stuart, Siena Lickle.
"He was a beloved child," explains Lyons. "I'm sure they were all loved, but he seemed to be the one that H.P. and Emily were really putting a lot of effort and faith into, to come in and learn the business."
The foundation was established as a home for elderly men in the Sunnyside area of Makawao. When the home closed after World War II, the foundation's funds were used to benefit various Maui County organizations.
"They just really wanted to have him remembered," says Lyons. "Now here we are 100 years later and we're still remembering him - not only as the name of a foundation, but as a person as well."
1. HAWAII CANINES FOR INDEPENDENCE
It has been such an encouragement to have the FBMF share our vision for how HCI can serve people with disabilities in our community. In addition to financial support, the board of the FBMF has also supported us with their encouragement, advice, and even hands-on help at our training facility The FBMF trustees are doing a great job of carrying on the Baldwin family's legacy of generosity and community service. We can't thank the FBMF enough for supporting our program and for their 100 years of service to the people of Maui.
- Mo Maurer, Hawaii Canines for Independence executive director
2. MAUI NUI BOTANICAL GARDENS
In our early years they funded the creation of our volunteer program ... Most recently FBMF together with a donation from Mary Sanford, and the Maui County Department of Water Supply helped us to build the Wallace G. Sanford educational hale and garden. The hale will be used to hold workshops, and interpretive signs and displays.
- Lisa Raymond, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens executive director
3. HUI MALAMA LEARNING CENTER
Last year, Hui Malama received $10,000 to develop a middle school and high school curriculum in science, technology, engineering and math that is project-based and emphasizes sustainability ... Not only has the funding enabled us to identify research-based teaching methodology and curricular models that focus on STEM and sustainability through renewable energy and agriculture but also to adapt this curriculum to field work students are conducting through partnerships with Teens on Call, Maui Economic Development Board and Businesses participating in Hui Malama's Employer Mentors Program: Biodiesel, Casco Pacific, HNU Energy and Swinerton Builders.
- Pualani Enos, Hui Malama Learning Center executive director
4. HALEAKALA WALDORF SCHOOL
"The Fred Baldwin Memorial Foundation has been one of the most supportive foundations in our school's history ... We feel that they believe in us and we feel their commitment to educational choice on Maui. We feel their commitment to Maui's children firsthand.
- Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, Haleakala Waldorf School chair
Today the Foundation is the family's largest vehicle for giving, supporting a broad spectrum of organizations that touch on every facet of island life. While much of its work goes unnoticed by the general public, the recipients often experience firsthand what this giving means: Funding a new playground at Kihei Baptist School, sending Molokai High and Intermediate School students for an off-island math competition, helping Community Work Day Program build a new roof and Hale Makua construct a rehabilitation center.
The Hawaii Community Foundation took over management duties for the Foundation in 1990. HCF philanthropic services officer Kathleen Buenger reports that since that time, more than $4.4 million has been poured back into the community.
"It definitely fills a void because we have so very few foundations that are Maui County central," continues Buenger. "Most of the big foundations are statewide or based on Oahu, so to have this foundation focus strictly on Maui County is tremendous."
Recently, Friends of Moku'ula received a grant to preserve stories of local kupuna using written and video devices. The survey will give the elders a chance to share their mana'o, life history and memories of Moku'ula and the surrounding area.
"Preserving these stories is a race against time as we continue to lose our cultural treasures each year," says Friends of Moku'ula Acting Executive Director Shirley Ann Kaha'i. "Once recorded, our kupuna will be able to live on and teach subsequent generations about their history and community, providing a sense of place."
In the arts arena, the foundation has funded programs at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center - from sponsoring art exhibits to preserving the 75-year-old Kaluanui estate.
"With the foundation's significant support, Hui programs and exhibitions strengthen the bond between artists, teachers, enthusiasts and Maui's next generation of artistic leaders," says Hui Executive Director Caroline Killhour.
Maui AIDS Foundation Executive Director Keith Wolter adds, "(The foundation) does so much and boasts so little - they seem like a quiet bunch that doesn't go out of their way to trumpet their good work. I suspect that it stems from a deep sense of humility and the desire to give back because it's the right thing to do, not because they want lots of attention."
Through grant funding, Wolter's organization has been able to expand its volunteer program which serves people living with HIV/AIDS.
This year marks the Foundation's 100th anniversary, but rather than throw a glitzy birthday bash, the family is quietly celebrating the milestone with a private retreat to plan for the future. Millions of dollars later and countless lives touched, the foundation is keeping its focus on the next 100 years.
Picking from the family tree, the board of trustees has traditionally included a mix of aunts, uncles, cousins, parents and children who gather twice a year to deliberate where the money will go.
"I really feel like part of our job as trustees is to keep that forward-looking eye going and ensuring we're good stewards of the foundation and continue to be thoughtful givers in the community," says Lyons.
"Part of the retreat to me is sitting down with cousins and hearing about what they're thinking about in terms of that forward-looking eye."
* Lehia Apana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.