Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
A good idea and hard-working volunteers can change communities for the better if they can be supported. That’s the concept behind AARP Livable Communities Community Challenge grants.
On Moloka‘i, the Guzeiji Soto Mission and the Krause Family Foundation ‘Alama Ke Aloha received an $11,500 Community Challenge Grant last year to set up a WiFi hotspot at the mission. In addition to giving the rural community badly needed high speed internet access, the hotspot is used by volunteer Moloka‘i High School students to teach küpuna how to go online with their phones and other devices.
“The class was extremely helpful!!!,” Mary Kalilikane, a kupuna in the class said in an email. “Each session I learned new “simple” things that I never realized were available on our phones like using calendar, Siri and notes and several other things.”
The temple sat mostly idle during the pandemic. A minister who used to fly in from O‘ahu to conduct services wasn’t able to come. The mission also canceled its popular bon dances. But the AARP grant and other grants enabled the mission to refurbish its grounds into a gathering space and has given the mission a new life.
“Hopefully the church can be a community space where people can come. The hotspot is already there and people can learn all kinds of things,” said Lisa Takata, president of the Molokai Soto Mission. “We want to serve the community in whatever way we can.”
If you know of a community group with an idea for projects that help communities become great places to live for people of all ages, applications are now being taken for the 2023 Community Challenge Grants. The grants range in size from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars for larger projects that improve public places; transportation; housing; diversity, equity and inclusion; digital connections; community resilience; civic engagement; and community health and economic empowerment.
Nonprofits and government entities can get more information and apply at aarp.org/communitychallenge. A key factor in the grants is that projects must be fast-tracked and completed by Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023.
There are two new grant categories this year — $2,500 Capacity-Building Microgrants for projects that support walkability and community gardens and demonstration grants for projects that encourage replication of promising local efforts that build capacity for transportation system changes and accessory dwelling unit design competitions. Capacity-Building Microgrants come with webinars, one-on-one coaching and other learning opportunities for recipients.
Besides the Moloka‘i grant, AARP gave out two other grants to Hawai‘i nonprofits in 2022. The Rice Street Business Association received $20,000 for projects on Kaua‘i including bus stop murals, a community celebration in Lïhu‘e and community gardens. Hui O Hau‘ua used their $18,000 grant to create a walking trail at the site of a proposed community center and disaster shelter.
Since the Community Challenge Grant program started in 2017, 20 Hawai‘i projects have received $234,366 to improve and create parks, beautify urban areas, bring a mobile, live theater to the Big Island, encourage bicycle sharing by older residents, make streets safer and generally make communities more livable.
Applications for the 2023 Community Challenge Grants are being accepted through Wednesday, March 15, 11 a.m. Hawai‘i time. For more information, go to states.aarp.org/hawaii.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.