Friday | April 24, 2015
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Kimberly-Clark, volunteers revamp Kapaau health center

A fairy-tale moment occurred Thursday when 130 Kimberly-Clark Health Care employees and their guests converged on Kapaau, where they provided much-needed repairs, maintenance and sprucing up at the Kohala Family Health Center.

“The community is celebrating. Everyone is so appreciative of this company’s want to help and its willingness to give back to the community,” said Dr. Sylvia Sonnenschein, medical director of the Hamakua Health Center Inc.

Owned and operated by Hamakua Health Center Inc., the Kohala Family Health Center serves the Hawi and Kapaau communities in North Kohala. Its physicians are the only doctors available to regularly staff Kohala Hospital. The Kohala Family Health Center has two to three providers, each of whom see approximately 18 to 20 patients a day, Sonnenschein said.

Sonnenschein didn’t know exactly when the last TLC effort was at the Kohala Family Health Center. She said small renovation jobs have occurred over the years, but nothing like this free massive makeover. She estimated the building to be 80-plus years old.

The Kohala Family Health Center was “the old dispensary,” where local plantation families used to go for immunizations and harder-to-treat cases that home remedies could not solve. Sonnenschein said the center later served as her private practice for 14 years. In 2006, she sold it Hamakua Health Center, a federally qualified community health center that sees people regardless of their ability to pay and provides a sliding fee scale for the uninsured based on income and family size.

According to its website, Kimberly-Clark Health Care provides essentials — medical device and infection prevention products — that improve the quality of patients’ lives. It is also a global leader in education to prevent health care associated infections.

Annually, Kimberly-Clark Health Care rewards its top sales professionals from around the world with an all-inclusive paid vacation for two. This trip is called Club One. The Kimberly-Clark Health Care group arrived on the Big Island Tuesday and leaves Sunday. For at least four years, the corporation has chosen to do something meaningful in a community or area where its employees are vacationing, said Joanne Bauer, Kimberly-Clark Health Care president.

On one day of their trip, Kimberly-Clark Health Care employees and their guests participate in a community service project called Club One Cares. Such volunteer experiences provide a way for them to contribute to places where they live, work, support or visit. It’s also an opportunity for local community building and meaningful civic engagement, Bauer said.

Last November, Steve Linville, global health care sales operations director at Kimberly-Clark, helped scout different locations for the Club One’s community service project. The Kohala Family Health Center was chosen because of its needs and its ability to accommodate the group, as well as the chance to improve accessibility to health care and do a tremendous amount of good, he said.

“Ensuring people have access to facilities like the Kohala Family Health Center is very important, and by Kimberly-Clark doing this work, the center can focus more of its dollars toward patients than the facility.”

From 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Club One group rehabilitated the center’s interior and exterior, with the hopes that the end results would bring a freshness, life and new sense of ownership for users. Their to-do list was long, but not discouraging to anyone. All were optimistic, determined to fix whatever they could as best they could.

Marvin Spears, sales director for Kimberly-Clark in Roswell, Ga., called the Club One service projects “a great experience” because “besides enjoying the fun and sun, you get to do something positive that benefits others.” He thinks the projects provide another chance for employees to work together and instill a sense of giving and sharing. He hopes the recipients appreciate their hard work and know they did it for no other reason other than being from “that warm place in our hearts.”

With paintbrushes and rollers in hand, they enthusiastically livened up the walls of the center. They did remedial carpentry and landscaping. Sterile storage units for medical supplies were built. New air conditioning units were installed. Repairs were made to gutters, drainage, roofing, window screens, the wheelchair ramp railing, stairs, signs and more.

Linville estimated the value of the work to be worth more than $50,000.

Such a tremendous effort was not accomplished by Kimberly-Clark Health Care alone. Helping were Hamakua Health Care Inc. employees, local construction workers and landscapers, as well as dozens of residents — all of whom brought their skills, muscle and caring to the project. Michelle and Brett Smith of Waimea-based Beach Games Spectacular served as the project’s lead contractor. Among the donations and discounts provided were from Lowe’s, Home Depot, Audio Visual Services, Events In Paradise, Costco, West Hawaii Concrete and The Fairmont Orchid, Hawaii, said Steve Miscall, senior account executive for JNR Inc., an Irvine, Calif.-based employee incentive and corporate event planning company.