January 27, 2016

Lanai’s First Habitat Becomes a Home

Photo of Lanai resident Nani Kaniho and family standing outside.

Homes contain a lifetime of memories where children are raised and milestones are reached. But when houses age and leaks spring on weathered roofs, sometimes the best option is to tear down and build anew.

Although Habitat for Humanity Maui has completed smaller renovation projects on Lanai, the organization had not had an opportunity to completely rebuild a home from the ground up until Nani Kaniho’s application to fix her roof came through their office.

Kaniho had applied through Habitat’s A Brush With Kindness program, which does critical home repairs and renovations. However, after completing a property assessment, the Habitat crew determined the most cost-effective solution would be to start from scratch.

“Our qualification guidelines are based on need and income, but more importantly, a willingness to be an equal partner in the process,” said Sherri Dodson, executive director at Habitat for Humanity Maui. “That includes taking mandatory homeownership classes and agreeing to put in a bit of sweat equity as we work together to build a new home.”

Thanks to Habitat’s quick work, plans are now in the works to put Kaniho and her family in a brand-new, three-bedroom, two-bathroom home in less than a year’s time.

Many hands, one goal

Building a home takes an extraordinary amount of logistical planning and manpower, but Habitat’s relationships with vendors and community partners, as well as volunteers make it possible.

Pulama Lanai has assisted the Habitat project by shipping materials to the island. Volunteers have been recruited and continue to be recruited by Rex Calderon, the on island project manager. National brands such as Whirlpool and Valspar will have a hand in the project with valuable donations of appliances and paint. Habitat also accepts donations of power tools and safety equipment from the community.

Twenty-five people have already signed up to join Kaniho and her grandchildren in the construction effort. Nordic PCL, a construction company, has also committed manpower to the project and made a monetary contribution. Though there is strong volunteer interest, more are welcome to roll up their sleeves for some heavy lifting. Licensed electricians and plumbers, as well as those with drywall experience, are especially helpful in donating their time toward tasks that require specialized skills.

Anyone 16 and older can volunteer on the job site by contacting Habitat’s community relations director, Max Tornai, at (808) 242-1140 or or the on-island project manager, Rex Calderon at (808) 215-1083.

Even those who have never lifted a hammer can support the project in another way — by making lunches to support those on the construction site. Bottled water, canned juice and snacks for the hardworking crew are also gratefully accepted.

Lanai families encouraged to apply

Once the last nail is in place and Kaniho and her grandchildren are welcomed into their new home, the Habitat crew hopes to begin the process all over again with another Lanai family.

“We would love to continue working with residents to provide renovations and even full home builds, so we encourage anyone who qualifies for one of our programs to apply,” said Tornai. “Habitat has helped build homes for families in need all over the world, and we can’t wait to benefit more families right here on Lanai.”

Interested applicants may view Habitat’s eligibility requirements and download an application from

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