WIC, Honolulu Family Programs Know How To Really ‘Make a Difference’

Hawaii/Pacific Isl. Division

By Judy Lee – 

With thousands of others across the country, Women In Construction (WIC) in Honolulu participated recently in the 1996 “Make a Difference Day.” For their project at The Salvation Army Family Treatment Services (SAFTS), they were named one of the top 10 national winners in USA Weekend magazine.

Under the enthusiastic leadership of Elaine Swisher, WIC’s community service chair, the women volunteered to lend a hand when SAFTS began renovating the Kaimuki facilities. That project had the women repairing louvers, painting walls, tearing out termite-eaten shelves and hauling out debris. It also earned WIC a national honorable mention in the 1995 Make a Difference Day for their labor-intensive work.

“WIC was looking for a project to help women who were helping themselves,” said Swisher, who is now president-elect. They learned about SAFTS, which helps women in need of substance abuse treatment and their young children, some of whom have special needs due to exposure to drugs in utero. SAFTS clients learn to overcome their addictions, gain life skills, take GED classes and take responsibility for their decisions and their lives.

What began as a one-day project evolved into an ongoing commitment to help women in recovery. They returned for seven Saturdays, and WIC recruited high school football teams to help clean the chapel, haul out trash and clean the surrounding acreage.

Enlisting the aid of the Painting and Decorating Contractors Association of Hawaii, WIC took on the painting of two cottages that will be used for clean and sober living. With donated paint and materials, volunteers finished every item on the center’s construction wish list, a value of $15,000.

As they met the mothers and their children, WIC decided to expand their volunteer activities. They held Easter egg hunts and hosted holiday parties. At Christmas, a delicious meal was followed by a songfest and program. “For many of our clients, this was the first joy-filled Christmas they had ever experienced,” stated Claire Woods, SAFTS executive director.

WIC is affiliated with the National Association of WIC and actively supports volunteerism through scholarships and community service. WIC representatives Elaine Swisher and Darlean Kiyokane will attend the President’s Summit for America’s Future, where they will be acknowledged for WIC’s volunteerism. From there, they will go to Washington D.C. and join the other nine national winners for an awards ceremony with First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“Women in Construction” has shown our clients how much they care.” stated Lt. Colonel Chris Buchanan, divisional commander. “We are truly blessed by their contributions and delighted by the recognition they are receiving.”

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