Rowena Pangan and Anela Pa

Rowena Pangan and Anela Pa

Anela Pa and Rowena Pangan have found a way to turn trash into treasure times three.

This is how it works: Folks give their unwanted household goods and clothing to Ho’omana, a nonprofit organization. Shoppers happily buy these low-cost, quality items at a Wailua thrift shop staffed by young people with special needs. In the process, the kids learn useful skills and help generate income that supports social services for themselves and others.

“I believe strongly that if you give, you will receive,” Pangan says. “The rich have been giving and the poor have been blessed.”

Pangan, who has a profoundly deaf daughter, met Pa, whose children have learning disabilities, a decade ago. Both were frustrated by the lack of programs teaching practical skills to kids with physical, emotional, educational, developmental or behavioral challenges.

In 2002, the pair decided to channel their discontent into something positive and founded Ho’omana, which means “to empower.” While their goal was to fill a void in social services on Kauai, they also wanted to help their organization survive by making it self-sufficient.

And that’s how the thrift shop, Ho’omana, was born. It now fills a 7,000-square-foot building owned by the Smith family at the corner of Kuhio Highway and Kuamoo Road, near the mouth of the Wailua River.

Besides generating steady revenue, the shop serves as an ideal place for kids with special needs to learn skills like mopping and sweeping, customer service, furniture refinishing, yard care, cashiering, stocking and sorting merchandise and working as a team. The youths also do community service projects that serve kupuna and others.

“It’s been totally positive,” Pa says, noting that children have blossomed in the program, developing pride and confidence they never had before. “We’ve seen them turn around. A lot of our kids are not book learners. We adapt to their learning needs or abilities to help them to be successful.”

Some have gone on to get jobs or live independently, and many find a new sense of belonging in the loving atmosphere of Ho’omana. “We give lots of hugs,” Pangan says. “We are the family that a lot of the children don’t have.”

But kids with special needs aren’t the only ones Hoomana serves.

“We have our fingers in a lot of pies,” Pangan says, and that includes assisting women in a Kaua’i Community Correctional Center work furlough program, as well as those who are leaving abusive relationships.

Ho’omana is open 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Donations of clothing, furniture, household goods, books and other usable items in good condition are welcome. Cell phones, ink cartridges and HI-5 beverage containers also can be dropped off for recycling. Call 821-2818.

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