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Sentry gives $200K to Maui United Way’s COVID-19 relief efforts

Tournament of Champions title sponsor donating over $1 million across country

The Sentry Tournament of Champions title sponsor’s logo is displayed prominently between the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 10th and 13th fairways on Dec. 31. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The word “ohana” came up several times in a virtual press conference involving Sentry Insurance Foundation’s $200,000 donation to the Maui United Way on Tuesday.

The foundation announced it is donating the money to Maui United Way as part of a $1.07 million commitment to organizations across the country for coronavirus relief support.

Sentry is the title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions PGA Tour golf tournament held annually in January at the Kapalua Plantation Course.

“Maui has welcomed us as ohana and we consider Maui our second home,” said Stephanie Smith, the vice president and chief marketing and brand officer of Sentry, and president of Sentry Foundation. “We spend time on the island and with you and we’ve come to know and build relationships with the many organizations that serve Maui and we now understand first-hand the challenges that face Maui residents.

“And truly becoming involved in community is just core to who Sentry is.”

Smith remembers wading into the tournament in 2018 with some wonderment about what the whole thing was about. At the 2020 event, the company announced a rare 10-year extension of the title sponsorship, a $6 million to $12 million annual commitment, through 2030.

“When we signed on we thought we knew Maui,” she said. “But what we knew was what tourists see. We saw the beautiful beaches, we saw the hotels, we saw the golf tournament. We knew this would be good for us as a business, but then we really got to know Maui.

“We got to know the people and we came to understand that the Maui that tourists see isn’t the Maui that’s experienced day in and day out by those who live on the island and are working two or three jobs to afford a home, that the cost of living is so high. So, Maui has made an impression on us and as important as the golf tournament is, being part of your community, making a contribution to the community — we don’t want to be the type of sponsor that shows up a week a year, has a great time and then disappears. We do want to be part of this community.”

The mutual insurer’s efforts are focused on making a direct impact at the community level.

“At Sentry, we’re committed to helping those we serve get through this very difficult time,” Pete McPartland, chairman of the board, president, CEO of Sentry, and chairman of the Sentry Foundation, said in a press release. “We also understand help is needed at the heart of our communities. By partnering with local organizations — from United Way to other community groups — we hope to lift up our communities and work together to overcome the challenges we face.”

The foundation’s donation to Maui United Way is one of 15 donations to local United Way organizations where Sentry employees live and work. An additional matching program encourages employees to join the company in supporting their communities.

When asked where the money will go first, MUW president and CPO Nicholas Winfrey said that is a tough answer to find.

“It’s tough to pinpoint specifically because there’s such a broad need at this moment,” Winfrey said. “We launched last March when this crisis first hit, pulled funds out of our reserves because we knew that this was going to be such a high impact kind of crisis to where we created a granting system for specifically gap funding within the non-profit sector.

“It allows us to kind of adapt quickly as the needs approach with the online application. Some of those funds that we’ve already allocated are specifically for food security, getting meals to where they’re needed.”

Winfrey said the need is large at this point.

“It pivots from day to day,” he said. “And what funds like this will allow us to do, we’ll actually be able to provide that support where it’s needed when it’s needed.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino started volunteering at Kapalua in 1988 when the resort hosted the Kapalua International, the unofficial event that preceded the TOC, which began in 1999.

“Ohana is a word that I use in a very stringent manner, not something I just throw out there every day,” Victorino said. “And the moment I met Sentry, I met Pete and Stephanie and all of them, it was a family affair. It wasn’t about business. They wanted to know what was going on on Maui and where they could help. I said, ‘Wow. …’

“They made sure, not only my ideas, but they listened to the people, they watched, they started to understand there’s a real Maui.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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