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Helping Angels: New nonprofit offers services to residents with disabilities

<p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>CEO Sharon Ruffner talks about her wall of angels during the grand opening of Helping Angels of Hawaii on Friday afternoon.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Marjorie Watanabe cuts the ribbon after a blessing during the grand opening of Helping Angels of Hawaii on Friday afternoon.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>Marsha Kriger of New Hope Hilo Hawaii speaks to CEO Sharon Ruffner for blessing during the grand opening of Helping Angels of Hawaii Friday afternoon.</p><p>HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald</p><p>A cake celebrates the grand opening of Helping Angels of Hawaii Friday afternoon.</p>


Tribune-Herald staff writer

Helping Angels of Hawaii is a new, nonprofit home health care option that seeks to provide for Hawaii Island’s burgeoning population of elderly residents, as well as young people who may have mental or physical disabilities.

“Our theme is helping people from age 9 to 99,” said owner and operator Sharon Ruffner. “I’ve found there are many similarities in helping elderly people with something like Alzheimer’s compared with a child with something like autism. Many of the same techniques are used.”

By keeping her costs low through catering to both types of clients, and also by applying for federal grants through her 501(c)3 status, which she plans to have finalized by next month, Ruffner says she is able to offer competitive prices while providing top-quality care.

“This is really something unique for Hilo. We’re going to be big. Putting people back to work, and helping the community,” she said.

Currently, her clientele consists mostly of the elderly, and that appears to be an area that will only continue to grow, she said.

“There are over 10,000 elderly, retired residents on the island on my mailing list,” Ruffner said. “And the number of elderly on the island is expected to grow 37 percent in the next 12 years.”

The relatively cheap real estate prices on the Big Island, paired with Hawaii’s weather and way of life, serve as a beacon for retirees looking for somewhere to call home as they enter their golden years, Ruffner said, and that means further stress on a health care system that is already being pushed beyond capacity.

In operation since May, the Hilo-based Helping Angels of Hawaii is the first step in a long-range plan that Ruffner hopes to continue to make a reality as she builds inroads on Hawaii Island. In a few years’ time, Ruffner hopes to offer her own assisted living facility and group homes, but currently she’s building a name for her business by offering home health care services including counseling, teaching independent living skills, help with recreational activities, laundry services, hospice care, shopping, help with medical appointments, bathing, vocational rehabilitation, meal preparation, diabetic shots, alzheimer’s therapy, housekeeping and more.

She employs only licensed and credentialed “helpers,” mostly Certified Nursing Assistants, after performing a full background check. She has a total of 150 Hawaii Island CNAs on standby, and currently employs around 11. Each of her Helping Angels must have a minimum of 10 years experience, according to a brochure.

Located at 277 Kukuau St., Suite A-103, Helping Angels launched with the help of several dedicated volunteers, including Sharon Perriera and Joanne Maldonado, whom Ruffner says were invaluable in making the business a reality. Additionally, Ruffner is aided by her son, Bay Clinic Chief Financial Officer Mike Lukson, who serves on Helping Angels’ board of directors.

For more information, visit, write to, or call (808) 747-5464.

Email Colin M. Stewart at


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