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BY Lynn Cook and Lianne Bidal Thompson
We Chat With Two Volunteering Visionaries
THERE IS FRESH, running water in a remote Marshall Islands’ village because a certain boy’s parents highlighted the rewards of community service. And while charity does start at home, it’s easy to see-from the interviews with our two charitable subjects- that thousands can benefit from a simple lesson passed down through the generations. For Irmgard Hormann, founder of Hawai’i Meals on Wheels, it came from her minister father. And, Major Edward Hill was literally raised in the Salvation Army.
Now, they are passing legacies of giving on through the countless lives they have touched.
A GRACEFUL VISIONARY
Irmgard Hormann may call herself a “professional volunteer,” but the 93-year-old has worked more than 25,000 hours since she turned 60. Today, we find her holding court at a table during her shift at the Friends of the Library.
“I was a minister’s daughter. My dad said I needed to serve on the Social Ministries Committee of our church, the Lutheran Church of Honolulu,” Hormann shares. “He would take me with him down to the docks. There was a green fence with a tiny window. It would open and he would give communion to the people on the other side. They were lepers waiting to be shipped to Kalaupapa.”
After retiring from the Hawai’i State Library in the early 70s, Hormann was restless. In 1979, with start-up funds totaling $25, Hormann found six clients and six volunteers.
“We started with two routes, Makiki and Mo’ili’ili. I did pretty much everything,” she says, noting the recruits she employed from every church, and the hospital and commercial kitchen partners who aided with the cooking.
Hawai’i Meals on Wheels grew to serve 500 homebound elderly. More than 69,000 meals are now prepared in 10 kitchens. Forty-three delivery routes stretch out over the island, served by 300 volunteers. Hormann insists on cutting our interview short in order to get back to work.
“(She) inspires us all,” says Claire Shimabukuro, executive director of HMOW. “She is warm, giving, has amazing energy, is constantly recruiting and training volunteers.”
On any given day, Maj. Edward Hill could be either traversing South Pacific waterways by boat to remote villages or discussing a state-of-the-art community center that’s soon to be the gem of Kapolei. It’s all part of life for the divisional commander of the Salvation Army Hawai’i and Pacific Islands.
Like Hormann, Hill came to his life of service through his parents’ example.
“I bounced around with my parents, who were with the Salvation Army as well,” Hill says, who later joined the Salvation Army. Both he and his wife-the accomplished Maj. Shelly Hill, director of Women’s Ministries in Hawai’i-were commissioned in 1993.
Many will know the Salvation Army for its thrift stores, the annual Thanksgiving dinner or the red kettles you see during the holidays. But, Hill, who is also responsible for Salvation Army activities in the Marianas and the Marshall Islands, is quick to point out the organization’s ability to address a myriad of pressing needs throughout the Pacific region.
“We evolve to the needs and resources of each area,” he says.
Within Hawai’i, the diversity of the services is awe-inspiring: On Maui, the focus is on a growing homeless population; on the Big Island, it’s runaway teens; and on Moloka’i, the Salvation Army is the main organizing force behind the island’s food bank. On O’ahu, there’s drug rehabilitation facilities, a preschool and soon in Kapolei, the Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.
Currently under construction (completion is expected next fall), the center sits on 15 acres of land and will feature a performing arts center, a 150-student preschool, a gymnasium, an aquatic center and more.
Meanwhile, Maj. Hill continues on with his work. The range includes scouting out new locations for the Salvation Army to expand services throughout the Pacific, to overseeing programs in Hawai’i to help those struggling with addiction transition to a life of independence.
His voice lights up when he relates one woman’s story: “She went through our drug and alcohol treatment programs, had been incarcerated, her children were taken away from her,” shares Hill. “Then, she went through our after-care (transitional living) program. Now, she is off probation, reconciled with her children and she has a good job-as one of the key staff members with a community services organization. She was glad that she now helps people who need it the way she once did.”
Maj. Hill credits the caring staff at all of the Salvation Army programs for the growth experienced by the people they serve.
“The mission is basically the same, we reach out to the disenfranchised without discrimination,” he says.