Waimanalo’s Kakaina subdivision was abuzz on Thursday, October 20th, as we gathered with more than 100 volunteers, partners and supporters to celebrate our newest Habitat homeowners, William “Uncle Wili” and Cheryl Gramberg.
The Grambergs are Habitat’s 90th homeowners, and the first homeowners to receive their keys under the leadership of newly appointed CEO, TJ Joseph. A Habitat homeowner, native Hawaiian and Habitat’s first wahine CEO, this dedication marked a symbolic new chapter not just for Habitat but for the Waimanalo community, who welcomes her unique perspective on how to better serve the communities of Hawaii.
“TJ, as a wahine kanaka Habitat homeowner herself now becoming the CEO, we are so excited for the progress that Honolulu is going to make going forward.”
– Tyler Gomes, Deputy to the Chairman, Department of Hawaiian Home Lands
Their 2-bedroom home is the first constructed through Wahine Build – our new annual initiative to mobilize, educate and empower women to build affordable homes with Honolulu Habitat. More than 220 volunteers helped raise the walls of the Gramberg home, including 160 Wahine Build participants. Volunteers were welcomed back to celebrate with the homeowners and tour the completed home.
Representatives from Habitat’s partner agencies, Department of Hawaiian Homelands ( DHHL), Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) joined the family in celebrating their journey home.
The Dedication Ceremony opened with Uncle Richard “Babes” Bell pu kani (blowing the conch shell) and oli aloha by TJ Joseph, chief executive officer. Tyler Gomes, Deputy to the Chairman, DHHL, presented the family with a letter from the chair of the Hawaiian Homes Commission, William J Aila Jr., and a small makana. Remarks were also given by Shanti Gomes, president of Honolulu Habitat’s board of directors, TJ Joseph, Honolulu Habitat chief executive officer, and Wahine Build chairwomen, Pamela Nitta and Alissa Bautista.
Kahu Kenneth Makuakane of Kawaihao Church conducted the home blessing and invited guests to anoint the home as they passed through the front door.
Live music was provided by Kaleikaumaka Music whose lead vocalist, Jasmine Sniffen-Aweau, is also a Habitat homeowner.
For those of you who know Uncle Wili, it will come as no surprise that the ceremony, like him, was one-of-a-kind. While many home dedications are intimate occasions, reserved for close friends and family, Uncle Wili wanted to share this milestone moment with everyone who helped make it possible. “This is as much their day as it is mine,” he insisted. During the ceremony, Wili and Cheryl surprised the Wahine Build volunteers with individually wrapped gifts, a token of their appreciation.
“We want to show all the wahine our overwhelming appreciation for everything they have done for our family,” said homeowner Cheryl Gramberg, “We are forever grateful to them.”
The biggest surprise of the evening occurred moments before the closing of the ceremony. In the highly anticipated moment when the homeowners usually receive their keys to their new home, Wili and Cheryl surprised guests with a delightful prelude – a vow renewal, on the threshold of their new home, marking a new chapter for them not only as homeowners, but as a husband and wife.
“Because of these unseen things – love, faith, and new hope – this is no longer a hale, it’s a home; a space where their spirits can finally rest.”
“Today we join hands and hearts with this family,” concluded Kahu Kenneth Makuakane, “Because of these unseen things – love, faith, and new hope – this is no longer a hale, it’s a home; a space where their spirits can finally rest.”
Married for 28 years, Wili and Cheryl raised three beautiful children in Waimanalo before lack of available housing forced them to live apart. For years, Cheryl lived in Kapolei where housing was easier to find, while Wili remained in Waimanalo to care for his mother.
“We had such a hard time finding housing,” said Cheryl, “When DHHL suggested that we contact Honolulu Habitat, everything changed. It was such a blessing.”
Now, finally, they are united again under the same roof.
The start of something new
This home dedication, special for so many reasons, symbolizes a historic moment for Honolulu Habitat.
Under the new leadership of TJ Joseph and guided by our 5-year strategic plan, we endeavor to amplify our impact on Hawaii’s affordable housing crisis. Together, with the help of volunteers, donors and supporters, we will build more, serve more and do more than we ever have before.
This cannot be done alone. Your donation to Honolulu Habitat is an investment in both our community and in future generations. With your help, more families like the Grambergs can know the strength, stability and self-reliance we all deserve.