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How a Hawaiian Family Gives Back

Lauren Finney Harden | November 28, 2020 | People

The Kobayashi family knows that giving back is one of the most important things it can do for its communities.

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You know them for their developments throughout Hawai‘i such as Kukio Golf and Beach Club and Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, but the Kobayashi family of Kobayashi Group (kobayashi-group.‌com) is just as well known for its active involvement in the nonprofit and foundation communities. While the family is not Hawaiian by ethnicity, they hold the Hawaiian community, history and culture in the highest regard and humbly note themselves as “third-, fourth- and fifth-generation kama‘āina family,” says Alana Kobayashi Pakkala, chief operating officer and partner at Kobayashi Group. “‘Kama‘āina’ is the Hawaiian word for ‘native born’ or ‘one born in a place,’” she explains. “In our case, that place is Hawai‘i.”

Her father’s great-grandparents were born in Japan and moved to Hawai‘i, with Kobayashi Pakkala explaining that “my father came from humble but strong roots. His parents passed on their values to him through their dedicated work ethic, which was based on always being a person of your word and always following through on all your promises in both your work and personal life.”

Bert Kobayashi’s parents would be proud of their descendants: Now, with his wife, Susan; son BJ; son Patrick and daughter-in-law Kris; and daughter Alana and son-in-law Matt Pakkala, the core of the Kobayashi family is made up of not only formidable business players but a family united through an expectation of giving. Kobayashi Pakkala recalls, “When I returned to Hawai‘i in 2001 as a young adult, my father wasted no time in sitting me down and asking, ‘So now that you’re back home, what are you going to do?’ with regard to nonprofit work.”

The family has a very specific giving legacy pegged right now: “As our development business has evolved, so has our family’s charitable giving,” says Kobayashi Pakkala. “Over the past few years, our company has discussed focusing on charitable giving in areas representing what we feel are the highest needs of our community: education and healthcare. We have also made a commitment to focusing on affordable housing, with particular attention to the under-80% area median income rental population, as we are concerned about the cost of living challenges facing our community and workforce.”

“As a family, we’ve been especially moved by all of the work championed by Aloha United Way—and funded by Bank of Hawaii, Hawaii Community Foundation and Kamehameha Schools—in recently producing Hawai‘i’s first ALICE report [which helped] crystalize the focus of our family and company, leading us to propose the construction of a community preschool in our next affordable housing community,” in Kapolei, West O‘ahu, she adds. “We are highly motivated to make our Kapolei community one that not only provides quality-constructed, comfortable and safe homes for its future residents, but one that supports the needs of families desiring high-quality early childhood education and childcare.”

Those aren’t the only areas to which they contribute, however. Here is a partial list of the very many organizations that this family gives time and talent to: Bert Kobayashi is a founding board member of After-School All-Stars Hawaii; Susan has served on the boards of Hanahau‘oli School and the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University. BJ Kobayashi is on the Georgetown University Board of Regents and the board of Inspire the Keiki Foundation and also headed an initiative with his company, BlackSand Capital, to take pay cuts and put that money back into the community through assisting Hawai‘i Resilience Fund, Hawaii Foodbank and more. Patrick gives his time to American Red Cross of Hawaii and Mid-Pacific Institute, and Alana is on the board of Kapi‘olani Medical Center for Women and Children and is a “retired” founding member of GIFT Foundation of Hawaii. The company and family also recently helped fund BUILDING A BETTER HAWAII, a partnership with Hawaii Foodbank, to help families in need in 2020.

Kobayashi Pakkala stresses that given Hawai‘i’s small-town feel, “it isn’t surprising that our community as a whole can often appear very small and tightly connected,” which drives them even more for community involvement. “Giving back to community is a very common value shared by the majority of Hawai‘i residents and one of the biggest reasons our islands are so special in all the world. Giving of ourselves is a given in our family,” she explains. “The question is instead, ‘Where do we want to focus our attention and time? I hope to pass this value on to the next generation of our family too.”



Photography by: courtesy of the Kobayashi Family