A Kapalua retiree has found a way to harness the power of ladies who lunch.
Through her group Hui Hoaloha, Lois Reiswig has worked to help other women, many of them newcomers, find ways to give back to the Maui community. The group meets for lunch once a month at locations around the island, each time learning about a different Maui nonprofit organization and its mission.
"We have a lot of part-timers on this side," she said. "I've been really committed to helping nonprofits, and I feel that both locals and part-timers should give back to the community."
Hui Hoaloha founder Lois Reiswig (from right) stands with PBS Hawaii President and Chief Executive Officer Leslie Wilcox and Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation Executive Director Lani Correa at a Hui Hoaloha luncheon event at the hospital in 2010.
LOIS REISWIG photo
The luncheon group marked its 10th anniversary in November, and Reiswig received a "Volunteers in Philanthropy" award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Aloha Chapter the same month.
Reiswig said her involvement began when she started as a volunteer for the Maui Arts & Cultural Center after moving to the island 13 years ago.
Helping out with the center's Maui Calls fundraiser was an opportunity to learn about the community and to meet people from other parts of the island.
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Later on, Reiswig said, her Realtor began to call her whenever he got a new client, asking her to help introduce them to the community.
"He always wanted me to meet the wife, because the men golf and the women don't have anything to do if they don't golf," she recalled.
Reiswig formed Hui Hoaloha and began organizing monthly lunches for the women she was meeting.
"I started out with about 10 a month. I'm averaging over 50 now," she said. "I have more than 250 ladies on my email list."
Recent outings have included the Maui High Performance Computing Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center, the Bailey House Museum, the Maui Culinary Academy and the MACC, where the group ordered a catered meal and was entertained by a pianist.
"You find out that many people who move here don't even know about the MACC," she said. "I hope many of these people who are new to us will sign up and become members at the MACC."
Meetings usually involve an hourlong lunch followed by a 30-minute presentation and "talk story" by the organization being featured. The group does not hold fundraisers itself but offers nonprofits a chance to share information about their programs and to reach out to women who could be potential donors, volunteers or board members.
Reiswig said her goal is to help make that connection.
"I say, 'I'm not asking you to support any one (organization), I'd rather you pick a nonprofit you're really passionate about and support them,' '' she said. "I'm just an avenue to expose people to these groups."
On one outing, the group visited Lahainaluna High School to learn about the boarders program. Reiswig said that's the kind of worthwhile community organization many newcomers to the island don't know about.
"Some of the obvious ones people find on their own, but the Lahainaluna High School Boarders Association is not one that would come to the top of the list," she said.
Outside of her work coordinating Hui Hoaloha, Reiswig also is involved with the West Maui Cultural Council and helps organize the annual Maui Plein Air Painting Invitational.
"I'm very passionate about the arts," she said. "I'm not an artist, but I enjoy the visual arts. That's one of my ways of giving back."
Although Reiswig and her husband, Lee, both spent their careers in corporate jobs at IBM, she said she now realizes her true calling is for the nonprofit world.
"They are the kindest, most giving people in our society," she said. "I know they don't make as much money, but they are much happier than people in the business world - and isn't life about being happy?"
The luncheon group Hui Hoaloha is open to ladies only. There is no fee to join, but participants pay for the cost of their lunch.
To sign up or for more information, email Reiswig at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Ilima Loomis can be reached at email@example.com. "Neighbors: Profiles of Our Community" is a periodical feature about everyday people who make the Maui community unique. To nominate someone for a "Neighbors" feature, email The Maui News at firstname.lastname@example.org.