Since 2004, Touch A Heart has been offering informal social services mentorship, and tutoring, as well as providing meals to homeless families at Blaisdell Park, Waianae Boat Harbor, and the Kumuhonua Shelter. By 2012, Touch A Heart expanded its number of service days to six days a week, actively collaborating with other community groups to conjointly fund and provide the volunteer-based manpower for this outreach effort.
After a decade of serving homeless families within our community, Touch A Heart adopted a new vision and strategy, then augmented the scope of its organization’s activities to address the challenges the homeless face in their efforts to transition out of the parks.
Shortly after, Touch A Heart developed a tangible plan to partner with other nonprofits with underutilized commercial kitchens to create a Food Services Social Enterprise. The commercial kitchens would serve as vocational training work sites for the constituents of the community, with revenues generated through commercially marketed products, catering services, and food delivery programs used to sustain program operations. In 2015, The Salvation Army’s Family Treatment Services agreed to pilot the training program with women in their substance abuse recovery programs. We completed five successful courses there,allowing us to refine our program and successfully train 14 women.
In 2017, Touch A Heart moved from the Salvation Army campus to Central Union Church. We expanded the types of people we serve to include women at YWCA Fernhurst transitioning from prison back into the community, and men in recovery from The Salvation Army’s Addiction Treatment Services. We also redesigned the program to focus more on hands-on job training. In July 2017, we hired Chef Chad Haruguchi to expand our catering social enterprise and to help with training. Through a Hawai’i State Grant In Aid, we also hired Jamie Goya as Program Director.
We call the internship program Ho`ololi (“the act of transforming”), because our participants come to us with multiple barriers to employment—they are at or below the poverty level, and do not have the financial resources to secure affordable or subsidized housing. Many are in recovery from drug addiction; others are transitioning from incarceration. Despite these challenges, our interns are taking the positive step of getting training in food service, where well-trained job candidates are always in demand in Hawai’i.