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Heart Full of C.A.K.E. 🎂 on Palace Grounds Anew

Our Thanksgiving Gathering was a success! The mana or rising energy was palpable as more and more teenagers and families filled this special space. The excitement was contagious! Any trace of tiredness I felt seemed to be dispelled. There is something magical about meeting in person. It takes energy and, these days, even courage to show up in person. But what it does in the hearts of those present is undeniable. Let me know if you can feel it too.


Here in the Common Grace office, we know we can’t do this work alone. We show up everyday to help our organization survive. Our ohana absolutely needs the help of our mentors to help our keiki thrive! I echo our Chairman of the Board’s opening remark, “I have never been in a room with so many important people.” Every time Vehia said it, (he repeated himself at least three times), my heart for Common Grace grew in size! We get to be a part of very meaningful work. Our mentors are some really special people. The thing is, we need more of them.

Some weren’t able to make it this Saturday but we’re thankful for all of our mentors who continue to show up week after week. They’ve attended our training sessions, learned the recipe and shared C.A.K.E. (that is, Compassion, Attention, Kindness and Encouragement – Common Grace’s core values) with the keiki in our communities. And get a load of this! Our mentors aren’t only learning how to serve our keiki, but how to serve each other! Due to your donations we were able to send all the students and our volunteers home with rotisserie chickens, canned goods and cupcakes!


Do you know what our students at Waipahu High School did? First let me tell you their head coach, Courtney Kong, is a phenomenal leader who has been with us for 5+ years. She started off as a high school mentor, interned in our office, and has been head coaching for the last few years! And knowing her personally, serving C.A.K.E. comes naturally to her. After our gathering, she and her teen mentors went to dinner together. Then brimming with Compassion, Attention, Kindness, and Encouragement, they visited a local park to share their bounty with homeless people!

I am new to CG staff and continue to be blown away by the power of C.A.K.E. in our lives! The center of our work with Common Grace is bringing one-on-one mentoring to our keiki so every child can feel truly seen. The amazing thing I’ve witnessed in my short time with CG is how this work positively affects our ohana and every community we serve. This was our first time thanking our mentors and their parents and it was truly a success! We have been working hard since 2002 --- building bridges between caring adults and vulnerable keiki. Then, since 2015, we started training high school students to be there for their neighborhood keiki. Some of our keiki grew up and wanted to be mentors too. Now CG mentors are sharing C.A.K.E. with keiki AND their communities! I’m stoked to be part of this important work! By helping our keiki feel seen, we are well on our way to helping their whole families be seen and served.


On behalf of the Common Grace Staff I want to say thank you to Kalihi Union Church, Kapahulu Bible Church, Kahumana Farms, Ma’o Farms, and Olanui Baptist Church for helping us thank our very very very important people --- our mentors. They are tending our keiki and making our future shine bright. Mahalo nui loa!

I trust the Thanksgiving holiday was warm and filling for all of you who are reading this. Let’s take this nourishment and continue to uplift our keiki and our neighborhoods!


 

It was on these grounds I was enlivened by the brightness of our future. What was recently known as Central Middle School for over 100 years has been renamed Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani Middle School just this past September. And we get to be a part of her legacy anew! Let me tell you, it's a restoration involving a whole lot of C.A.K.E.!


These days current principal Joseph Passantino, his staff and Common Grace are rubbing shoulders. We’re developing relationships in the best way! Upon our first meeting he introduced himself to us as just “Joe”. It took some getting used to, calling a principal by his first name, but as we get to know him we get to stand testament to his heart-at-work on these old palace grounds. We’ve walked along hallways with Joe numerous times this school year and do you know what we’ve seen? A principal fist-bumping his students, calling each one by name and introducing them to CG staff as if they are the world’s most important kids (and let’s be honest, they really are)!

The thing about C.A.K.E. is you can’t share it if you’ve never had it. Thankfully, our principal knows the recipe. His upbringing was pretty unconventional. His mom was the PTA president and was very involved in his schooling. Even though his dad worked late they would always sit around the table and have dinner as a family. He looked around and saw that he was one of the few who had a dad who was even home. He witnessed the toll it took on his peers to be lonesome for a dad. Despite growing up in a tough neighborhood, Joe had an array of adult figures that taught him the value of investing in people. He knows because they valued him. He played sports in school and had coaches and mentors who helped support and guide him. This guy knows about C.A.K.E.!


Joe has been cognizant of the educational system since his youth and knows that working with keiki is dynamic, it takes a village to raise them! Being a principal of a school in a neighborhood with many broken families, he sees students who have a hard time valuing their education. He sees students from Mayor Wrights Homes, wandering around in the middle of the night. Parents need help raising their kids. His mother couldn’t have done it alone, nor could his father. But we can’t rely on our schools to pick up all the pieces. Even Joe’s teachers needed the support of his coaches and mentors who encouraged him outside of school hours. What we’re learning from Joe, is commitment to an entire school/community.

Joe looked up to his PTA president mom during his developmental years and witnessed the warmth first hand of a school/community. His school was open for students before classes and became a park for the community after school hours. People gathered for things like aerobics or chess and was a hub from the mornings to the late-night hours. Aries and I got to witness an event they put on a couple of days before our Thanksgiving gathering. It was Micronesian Night when they invited all their Micronesian students and their families. They fed them, enjoyed dance performances and celebrated the Pacific island cultures they so proudly represented. Joe reminded the families to also take pride in their kid’s education. After witnessing their 100+ turnout and the excitement that burst through the seems,I was convinced that this school/community can be a great way antidote to make not only Princess Ruth Ke’elikolani School, but all Hawaii, even better. Of course, we can’t depend on Joe and his staff, to take care of our keiki alone. It really does take a village. We all need to show up for our keiki.


When Joe was Principal at Aliiolani Elementary School. He connected with our Jay Jarman around the same time he met Ryan Hillner, also known as Pastor Rizz, of Reality Church. While our team organized mentoring after school during the week, Pastor Rizz held service in their cafeteria on Sunday’s. He did school supply drives, donated to the school, paid for murals, bought containers for storage needs, and delivered pizzas to faculty meetings. Joe brought in caring spearheads of the community --- like-minded adults who were able to care for their neighborhood keiki by pouring into their local school. Joe knows the power of developing relationships. He’s a living example of what happens when we keep our keiki at the center of our lives – everyone wins!

Our keiki are hungry for the good kine C.A.K.E. and we need your help! This is our first year serving our newest program, Mohala Mentors, in our neighborhood middle schools. We have partnerships with Niu Valley and Kaimuki Middle Schools and we are determined to serve Princess Ruth Ke'elikolani Middle School. Whether it's becoming a dedicated mentor for an hour of support in a hungry keiki's life or helping provide C.A.K.E. through financial aid, we welcome your feedback even in the form of recommendations towards fruitful avenues. We know that with your help there are more than a few ways to get involved in bringing our neighborhood keiki to the center of our lives. Remember, this is how everyone wins!


With hearts full,