Thursday, April 17, 2008

Aloha found online at

State Representative Ryan Yamane, Chair of the House Tourism and Culture Committee, thanked and congratulated Valerie Sugawa, a veteran of Aloha Airlines, for taking the initiative to create a website that collects donations and offers encouragement for the employees of Aloha Airlines who lost their jobs.

"I like Aloha helping Aloha." said Rep. Yamane. "Seeing former employees take the initiative to give back to their friends and colleagues really shows me the true spirit of Hawaii. They are using their own time to help those impacted and that alone proves the real meaning of Aloha."

Photo: Valerie Sugawa gives free haircuts to former Aloha Airlines' employees at Wellspring Covenant Church in Halawa.

Sugawa, 38 of Moanalua Valley, left the airlines last year to take care of her two children, but she still considers herself part of the Aloha ohana. Eager to do something to help the employees recently laid off after the swift shut-down of Aloha Airlines passenger service, Sugawa and her husband decided to build ShareAloha, a website where people can make donations, and former Aloha employees can make specific requests for items like diapers, formula, new or gently used business attire, canned goods, non-perishable foods, gift cards for gas, or groceries.

A mother of two, ages five and three, with another due in less than a month, recently asked for baby diapers, wipes, baby shampoo, baby ointment and lotion. Once a request comes in via email, Sugawa posts it on the website for island residents to see what is needed.

So far, the website has helped 14 employees with specific requests as of April 2, two days after the official shut down of the passenger service. Sugawa hopes to increase the number of people the website can assist once more employees hear about this alternative avenue for aid.

"With the word spreading, we are having more people writing in for aid," said Sugawa. "The need is great because they are getting turned away from different organizations."

The website also has a message board for concerned citizens wanting to help or offer support by leaving messages, miscellaneous information, or job opportunities for the Aloha community to view.

Donations and support from everyone has been incredible, says Sugawa. Each time they receive a new item, whether it be a gift card, canned goods or monetary donations, she and her husband are overwhelmed with joy at the kindness of Hawaii's people.

The website is co-sponsored by the Wellspring Covenant Church in Halawa, and every Tuesday workers of Aloha Airlines are invited to "Haircut Tuesday" at the church to get free haircuts, enjoy coffee, pastries, or lunch, and receive assistance with resume writing.

If you would like to help or need assistance and don't have access to a computer or internet, please call the Wellspring Covenant Church at 484-8880.

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