Stories from Friends of Hawaii Charities Grant Beneficiaries

Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs

For many years, the only trained dogs in Hawaii were guide dogs for the blind. Then in 1999, compelled by her love for dogs and compassion for her students, Susan Luehrs, a special education teacher at Kahuku High & Intermediate School created Hawaii Fi-Do. These service dogs are trained to provide assistance to disabled children, youth and adults in daily living activities, but the training of a service dog takes two years and usually costs around $20,000. Hawaii Fi-Do has been able to provide trained service dogs, at minimal cost to individuals who could never afford to pay for them because the organization operates with an all-volunteer staff, including handlers, trainers, kennel personnel and groomers. "People do this for love," said Hawaii Fi-Do Executive Director Susan Luehrs. Hawaii Fi-Do is also able to help fulfill the overwhelming request for certified service dogs in Hawaii because of their innovative programs and partnerships.

The Hawaii Fi-Do Service Dogs Youth Trainers program was established to help at-risk youth and special needs youth be involved in a local program that would be a win-win. The youth would acquire pre-employment and communication skills, gain job training, teamwork experience and participate in one-on-one socialization activities in a safe, nurturing environment. The dogs, in turn, would be trained and groomed physically and socially for highly-skilled service.

Family Promise of Hawaii

“To hold the babies, play with the children, hug the Moms, laugh with the Dads, is to make a friend. And to see a friend find a better life -- that’s about as good as it gets,” says Martha Balkin, volunteer coordinator for Family Promise of Hawaii. Since opening its doors in 2006, Family Promise of Hawaii has helped hundreds of homeless families with young children rebuild their lives and transition to sustainable independence. Family Promise works with an inter-faith hospitality network of over sixty multi-denominational congregations in the community who either host or support the families at their church, temple or synagogue.

Recently, one woman who was helped by Family Promise wrote, “With a single gesture of inviting me to meet with you, you blessed me with hope that my life can become complete again, happiness to reunite my family and strength to do my part to help myself – help my family. I felt content because I felt so grateful...Family Promise took care of me and my children in ways that a “real” family does. As long as you are here, it is an unspoken ‘Promise’ that individuals like myself can and will have a ‘Family’ even if they don’t have anyone else there.”

Hale Kipa

Since 1970, Hale Kipa has been the “House of Friendliness” providing shelter and other services to thousands of runaways and homeless youth in Hawaii. The organization was formed by a group of concerned community citizens, including the Junior League, the police department and area churches in response to an alarming number of adolescents in need. In 2002, Hale Kipa opened Haloa House, a city-leased, 4-bedroom home that provides a safe, supportive and skill-building environment for young women transitioning out of foster care. Once out of foster care, these young women are at high risk for becoming homeless.

To prevent these young women from becoming another homeless statistic, in the Haloa House program they are taught independent living skills, including money management, employ- ment readiness and how to find housing. “Living at Haloa was, what I believe, an imperative learning experience. I learned more about myself and my living habits that I never knew before,” said J, a young woman helped by Haloa House. “Haloa opened my eyes to reality of life and helped give me the tools to take on the real world.”

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