Neighborhood Place of Puna tries not to turn anyone away. We primarily help families with underage children as well as pregnant and parenting teens. We run an emergency food pantry to help the hungry in our community. And we try to provide resources, referrals, and advocacy to those we cannot help directly.
In March, we were contacted by a mother with a college age daughter who was struggling financially. Mom was also dealing with some mental health issues. Unfortunately, with no underage children in the home, this family normally would not qualify for services from our organization. Nevertheless
NPP staff were willing to meet with the mother and see if there was anything we could do to help, perhaps connect the family to other agencies in the community. When we arrived at the home, we discovered that there was indeed a lot that we could and should do.
Over several months we were able to help Mom get connected with the resources she needed to address her mental health issues. We also worked on budgeting to help Mom make her limited income go further. And we helped Mom find transportation so she could make her appointments. Most significantly we were able to help the family repair their home, which was damaged when Hurricane Iselle came ashore in Puna on August 8, 2014.
The house had no electricity. During Hurricane Iselle, lightning had destroyed their solar array, wiring and system electronics, so they had no lights, no fans, no refrigerator, and no running water. Most homes in Puna catch rainwater for household use and need electricity to run a water pump. Without electricity there was no water in the house. They had been forced to haul water for cooking and washing for the seven months since Hurricane Iselle stuck. It is hard for most us to imagine such a life. We are blessed with abundance and take for granted the miracle of reliable electricity, refrigeration and indoor plumbing.
Fortunately, following Hurricane Iselle, Hawaii Island United Way had partnered with Neighborhood Place of Puna to help families rebuild. Many of the families needing help were living on the edge of poverty. Most did not have hurricane insurance, so they lacked the financial means to make repairs. Their only option was to do what this family did, make the best of a bad situation and give thanks for what they did have – a home.
However, with generous support from Hawaii Island United Way, we were able to help this family replace their home solar system. It took some time, but the power was back on in the house in September, thirteen months after Hurricane Iselle. The family was ecstatic. After living for over a year without any of the modern conveniences, they could once again keep food safe and fresh in a refrigerator. They had lights by which to study and cook. They could get water from the tap.
In her effusive thanks, Mom shared that several other organizations had been unable to help her. She didn’t say why. Neighborhood Place of Puna could easily have been one of those organizations. Certainly this family did not technically “qualify” for NPP services. What she did qualify for was care and concern, which we were willing to offer. Because of our openness to the possibility of helping and our willingness to do so, the family is now healthier, financially stronger, and living in a home which once again has electricity and running water.
Paul Normann, Executive Director