A tiny health center in a small windward Oahu community has a big goal: Raise $13 million for its first major expansion since it was founded in 1989.
The Waimanalo Health Center is currently a cluster of portable buildings that, according to the facility, is inefficiently configured and inadequately sized based on U.S. standards for patient care.
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The health center, which is on Kalanianaole Highway, saw a 32 percent increase in the number of patients during the last 10 years, in a community that's home to the second-highest concentration of Native Hawaiians on the island. Nearly 11 percent of Waimanalo families live at or below the federal poverty level.
"Substance abuse, violence and poverty were and continue to be familiar stains on our community," Noa Dettweiler-Pavia, chairman of the capital campaign, said in a speech Wednesday at a blessing ceremony for the effort. "While not as vivid as the azure of our ocean, if your eyes linger, you'll notice the backyard tents along Kalanianaole Highway, the shattered car window glass at the beach parking lot and the empty dime bags in the gutter behind Shima's," he said, referring to Waimanalo's only supermarket.
Dettweiler-Pavia, also vice president and general counsel for the Bishop Museum, recounted for the crowed how his childhood in Waimanalo holds idyllic memories of picking lilikoi along the back roads and crayfish in the streams.
Visits to the health center are among those memories. "At the time, I didn't know the reasons behind it: because we were poor and had nowhere else to obtain health care," he said.
The health center has always carried out a mission to "improve the health and wellness of individuals and their ohana, regardless of their ability to pay," he said.
A nearby plot next to the fire station has been acquired, with construction scheduled to begin next year.
Follow Jennifer Sinco Kelleher at http://www.twitter.com/JenHapa .