It was a nearly weekly occurrence. Mr. Maui Executive would be sitting behind his desk, getting his day organized. Mrs. Secretary would stick her head in the door and say something like, "There's a Mrs. Whoever here. She wants to talk to you about the Whatever Community Organization's latest project."
Mr. Maui Executive knew exactly what was coming. Mrs. Whoever would talk about the project and then mention that the project needs such-and-such amount of money. If she were wise, she would then wait. Mr. Maui Executive would mentally tabulate the amount of money the firm had given so far that year. He might ask a question or two about which segment of the population needed help.
"Would x-amount be enough?" he would ask. Mrs. Whoever would be effusive with her gratitude. Mr. Maui Executive would pull out the company's checkbook and scribble away. If corporate funds were low, he might pull out his personal checkbook.
In the days before government support of nonprofit social service groups and organized fundraising, Maui businesses - particularly the plantations and banks - were the big contributors of money for everything from athletics to the Red Cross.
The wives of plantation managers were often the force behind groups such as the Child Health Organization, Ha'iku Social Welfare Club, Lahaina Temperance Society, Pa'ia Anti-Opium Society, Christmas Seals and a host of other civic, social and athletic organizations.
The Maui Community Chest began in 1907, largely as a war-relief and military support group. It expanded into general welfare funding in 1923 but included just a few of Maui's nonprofits.
You could just about hear beleaguered executives and small-business owners sigh with relief - it's an island tradition of helping when asked - when the Maui United Fund was organized in 1962. In 1969, the United Fund took over the assets of the Maui Community Chest. Nineteen organizations benefitted that year. The United Fund later became the Maui United Way. Not so incidentally, the MUW does not receive any funds from Oahu's Aloha United Way, and the Molokai United Way is also separate.
During the last campaign, Maui United Way solicited more than 400 businesses. It helps support 27 health and service agencies. In addition, there are many large and small private foundations that give grants to individual groups. Foundation grants involve submitting requests. Not all are approved.
Two of the biggest foundations are the Jeannette and Harry Weinberg Foundation and the Alexander & Baldwin Foundation. The Weinberg foundation generally limits its reports on its giving to individual projects, most of them involving some sort of development. The A&B foundation harkens back to the old days and, because it needs community support for its agricultural and development pursuits, issues annual reports on its giving.
A&B's 2012 "Review of Giving" was distributed this week. See alexanderbaldwinfoun
dation.org. The printed version is a glossy 12-page booklet subtitled "A Foundation for the Future." Among nearly 400 charities, both in the islands and on the Mainland, the report lists 85 Maui County grants to recipients ranging from the group All Pono to Women Helping Women.
The report includes a series of stories about individuals who benefitted from the cash donations. Maui is represented by Shikara Fitzsimmons' involvement with the Maui Fil-Am Heritage Festival, HC&S employees walking for the American Heart Association and Joe Balangitao Jr. and the Maui Interscholastic League.
Balangitao oversees the MIL Sports Spotlight program launched in 1999. The weekly Spotlight appears in The Maui News as a paid advertisement that includes profiles compiled by the newspaper's sports department highlighting the achievements of one male and one female scholar athlete.
At a time when governments are cutting back on grants, it's tougher than ever for Maui's social service agencies to help the ever-growing number of needy families in our community. Foundations help fill the gaps, but individual islanders are still the most important. Mr. Maui Executive still does his part, but his workdays are no longer routinely interrupted by a long line of Mrs. Whoevers for whatever.
* Ron Youngblood is a former staff writer for The Maui News. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.