KEKAHA — Friday night was a sleepless one for 58-year-old Kanani Beniamina as she and her family shopped for one of her daughters on Ni‘ihau and cleaned out her Elepaio Road home for a major facelift.
“We were so excited when we got the news that Habitat for Humanity would be coming on Saturday to work on the house, so we couldn’t sleep all night,” Beniamina said. “We had to unload everything at 4:30 a.m. before the barge left for Ni’ihau and came right back to the home to meet all of the volunteers.”
In all, about 25 Beniamina family members and volunteers from the Hanapepe-based nonprofit organization kicked off renovation work on the aging, three-bedroom house by gutting the structure and preparing it for construction work.
The event was in conjunction with National Build Week, a national effort encouraging women to devote one day in an effort to create affordable housing.
The construction process, which will take place over the next three to six months, will include replacing the roof, floor joists and beams, plus installing appliances, floors, windows, drywalls and sidings throughout the house, said Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity Executive Director Stephen Spears.
The estimated $50,000 in renovation work will be largely funded by a $40,000 Office of Hawaiian Affairs grant provided to the nonprofit and is one of the first few home repairs — rather that rebuilds — that the local organization is focusing on.
Spears said the Beniamina family will repay money over time through a 15- to 20-year, no-interest mortgage loan that is provided by the nonprofit organization to all qualifying homeowners.
“We have about 1,900 families on the waiting list for new houses, so the need on Kaua‘i is just really tremendous,” Spears said. “For the family to be able to have a safe place to live and raise future generations when their income is low is really important. It holds the community together … and really motivates people to get their houses fixed once one gets off the ground.”
Beniamina said she is thankful for the organization’s help, because it will help her and her husband provide a place for about 10 extended family members.
“Even though today is the first day, they’re doing a lot of work very quickly,” Beniamina said. “I’m surprised that people just popped up and decided to help out — we didn’t think so many people were going to come out and help us. Some people were just walking by, saw the Habitat sign and decided to stop by.”
Many of the volunteers — some of whom traveled as far away as Seattle to help out — took the work in stride and said that the project provided them with a useful outlet as well as a way to give back to the community.
“I think that it’s a great program and I think it’s amazing what they do for families,” Brooke Morgan, a Lihu’e resident and first-time Habitat for Humanity volunteer, said during the group’s lunch break.
“It’s kind of like a godsend and is an awesome project that keeps you really busy during the day by working with your hand. As humans, it’s important that we all get together to try and help one another.”
• Darin Moriki, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-3681 or email@example.com.