When an angel tells you something, you better believe it.
Seven months ago, under its Adopt a Class program, Aloha Angels set out to raise funds to award $700 to every teacher at Kaua‘i’s 13 public elementary schools.
And they just did it, raising more than $157,000 to be distributed among 225 teachers on the island.
Last Wednesday, when Aloha Angels President Ric Cox broke the news to 21 teachers at Kalaheo Elementary School that each would receive $500 for school supplies and $200 for a field trip, he was greeted with applause, cheers and even tears.
That faculty meeting was the 12th and final stop on a goodwill tour Cox started July 23. At a meeting with teachers at each school, he delivered the good news, while wearing his furry white halo.
To Cox’s disappointment, the Angels funds he raised didn’t make it to the 13th school. He said the principal there declined the $20,000, insisting his teachers don’t need more money.
What allowed Aloha Angels to award $157,500 to all 225 teachers at the 12 schools?
“The generosity of 78 donors, whose gifts ranged from $5 to $56,000,” Cox said. “As a Rotarian, I am proud that 75 percent of the money raised for Adopt a Class was donated by Kaua‘i’s five Rotary clubs and their members.”
The largest gift came from the Rotary Club of Kapa‘a Foundation, from reserves it had accumulated from Taste of Hawai‘i, its annual fundraiser. That foundation adopted all 48 classes at Kapa‘a Elementary and all 21 at Kekaha, two of the island’s neediest schools, plus 11 at other schools.
Asked what motivated the foundation he heads to adopt 80 classrooms, Jim Saylor explained,
“For several years, we’ve been looking for an exciting program to support in a big way. We decided that Adopt a Class was it. This is a wonderful way to support teachers in their efforts to inspire every student,” Rotary Club of Kapa‘a Foundation President Jim Saylor said of the motivation behind the organization adopting 80 classrooms.
Kapa‘a Rotary’s foundation contributed an additional $48,000 to other Aloha Angels programs, for a total gift of $104,000.
Other major contributions to Adopt a Class from Rotary clubs and their members include $44,000 from Hanalei Bay, which adopted classes at several schools, and $17,000 from Po‘ipu Beach, which adopted all 20 classes at Koloa plus three at Kula Aupuni Ni‘ihau.
Donations totaling $24,000 were received from 20 businesses. The biggest corporate gift was $10,000 from Saltchuk Hawai‘i, which adopted 14 classes at Kalaheo. Its companies include Young Brothers Limited, Hawai‘i Petroleum and Minit Stop and Aloha Air Cargo.
The individual who adopted the most classes is Paul Horner, general manager of The Club at Kukui‘ula in Koloa.
“The children of many of our employees attend Kalaheo. This is one way I can show them, and the teachers, how much they are valued,” said Horner, who adopted four Kalaheo classes.
How are teachers spending their Angel funds? They are hiring buses to take students to museums, a wildlife refuge, the Humane Society, campsites, powwows, plays, concerts and even a retirement home.
They are also buying such basics as pencils and notebooks, as well as apps, subscriptions to print and online materials, art supplies, headphones, iPads, a biological projection microscope and other science equipment, and for each of two kindergarten classes, a tank for two turtles.
Teachers called the Angel funds “a life saver” and have said they make the difference between “bare bones and an exceptional classroom.”
“When I tell keiki that their teacher is getting $700 to spend on them, their eyes light up, they clap and cheer excitedly, then they yell, ‘Thank you!’” Cox said.
Just as important to the success of the program, he said, are the donors who follow their money into their adopted classroom.
“Our happiest donors are those who tutor an hour each week,” Cox said. “Some have done so for four years.”
Through its donor advised fund at the Hawai‘i Community Foundation, Aloha Angels has raised $326,000 since April 1. Already, $230,000 of that has been distributed to fund its eight programs. Among the largest grants awarded were $18,000 for after-school clubs at five schools, $23,000 for Growing Our Own Teachers and $25,000 for Junior Achievement classes at four schools.
Key goals for the 2016-17 school year are re-adopting all 225 teachers and funding more after-school mentoring clubs.
“Our ultimate goal is to give away one million dollars every year, to form a more perfect Kaua‘i,” Cox said.
The Aloha Angels’ best hope of achieving what Cox said is a “breathtakingly bold goal” is to get support from philanthropists and institutions with ties to Kaua‘i.
“We are reaching out to wealthy businesspeople and celebrities. Opening their hearts, and their checkbooks, to help Kaua‘i’s vulnerable keiki is the dream, and the challenge, that gets me going every day,” Cox said.
Visit Facebook.com/AlohaAngels or email AlohaAngelsFund@gmail.com for more information on how to donate.