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A History of Giving


Makana Aloha Foundation has been in existence for over a decade, but that’s only one-tenth of what Gunars and JoRene Valkirs hope will be its lifespan.  “We hope we have created something that will continue to give for another century, long after we are gone,” Gunars says.  Before moving to Maui in 2007, Gunars and JoRene established Makana Aloha Foundation with an endowment of $7.34 million.  For the Valkris, a husband and wife partnership of over 40 years, the foundation was a natural progression from a life of generous giving on the mainland. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Makana Aloha is committed by law to give away a minimum of 5% of the endowment every year, including expenses.

The Valkris’ mission is to support Maui nonprofit organizations that directly improve the community in the areas of public education, the arts, healthcare, animal welfare and environmental conservation. Their vision was two-fold: first, to provide see capital to fund projects that might not otherwise be funded. Second, the Valkris have always wanted to move the Makana Aloha Foundation toward self-sustainability. If wisely invested, the principal should be preserved while the investment income is given away.

“We believe strongly in helping others and seeing the potential in new and exciting ideas,” JoRene says. “We want to support those who work hard and are committed to doing the right thing, even when it may not be the popular thing to do.”  The nonprofit organization has contributed close to $250,000 a year to Maui nonprofits, but the Valkris aim to do more. How to expand the foundation’s giving?  That’s where Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate comes in: to make direct community grants from the company, to increase the Makana Aloha Foundation endowment which in turn means more donation capacity for the Maui community, and to provide grants to Maui charities selected by Corporate Partners.


“Increasing the endowment to $20 million will allow Makana Aloha to give away approximately $1 million per year in perpetuity,” Gunars says. “A portion of profits from Maui Ku‘ia Estate Chocolate will be used to increase the endowment, and the rest will be given away in direct grants from the company each year. This is our Chocolate Kuleana, our responsibility and our privilege.”

In 2017 alone, Makana Aloha contributed to:

  • Hawaiian Island Land Trust – The second of a two-year commitment of $25,000 each year for unrestricted support to be used by the Trust for their most pressing needs.
  • Maui Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) – A $35,000 grant to help fund the MAPA summer performance of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
  • Imua Family Services – A $30,000 grant to help fund the costs associated with the lease and maintenance of the West Maui Family Center in Lahaina.
  • Ebb and Flow Arts – A $12,000 grant to help in funding the Violin Synergy Festival set for July 28 and 30, 2017.
  • UH Foundation Scholarship – A $5,000 grant to fund this year’s recipient of the Makana Aloha Culinary Academy scholarship.
  • Book Trust – A $20,000 Challenge grant resulting in $40,000 raised to support providing books for students in need at Maui schools.
  • Grow Some Good – A $9,600 grant to help support West Side Maui school garden programs.
  • Arts Education for Children – A $10,000 grant to help fund the costs of the 2017 JAZZ MAUI events held between April and June 2017 and to help the summer programs become more sustainable.
  • Ka Ipu Kukui – A $10,000 grant to be used for costs associated with the funding of Scholarships for future cohort participants (funding for Ka Ipu Kukui Annual Sustainability/Fund Raising Event, funding for Communication Costs, and to purchase or have developed a database system/Communication Portal).
  • Maui Dance Council Fiscal Sponsor for Pomaika‘i Elementary – A $15,000 grant issued for costs associated with the pilot project, “Integrating the Arts and Place-based Science,” and professional development needed for this program.
  • Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center – A $20,000 grant for costs associated with ongoing renovations and upgrade of systems and infrastructure at the Hui No‘eau Visual Arts Center Campus in Makawao.
  • The Maui Farm – A $12,500 grant for unrestricted funding to be used for priorities of the organization.
  • Whale Trust – A $20,000 grant for costs associated with the Whale Tales 2018 three-day whale research symposium and VIP fundraiser.

“Gunars and JoRene have tremendous heart and belief in one another, which has carried them to where they are today,” says Makana Aloha Executive Director Jami Burks. “They are in a position to help others realize their own full potential and help create a world where there is access to outstanding education for all, a clean and healthy environment and where animals are treated with respect for the amazing creatures that they are. Makana Aloha exists to maximize the impact of their giving and create something that did not exist before by helping others get started in pursuing extraordinary notions.”

Click here for more information about the Makana Aloha Foundation.
Click here for more information about Maui Ku’ia Estate Chocolate.