“Extreme Makeover” home built on land purchased with state grant to a nonprofit agency

The new 3,500 square foot home given to Theresa Leimomi Akana and her family by the hit ABC television show “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” is built on land purchased just six months ago by the nonprofit agency she founded and now heads.

The home, valued at over $600,000, was built on a portion of a three acre parcel on Kalihi Street bought for $2.7 million by Keiko O Ka Aina Family Learning Center on December 29, 2006. The group used a $2 million grant-in-aid approved by the state legislature earlier last year to make the purchase. With the state funds covering about 75 percent of the purchase price, the group was able to obtain a mortgage from First Hawaiian Bank for the balance.

The Extreme Makeover crew also built a second structure for use by Keiki O Ka Aina as a community recreation center. Both buildings are owned by the nonprofit group, although the Akana family will occupy the residence.

Akana is executive director of the group which provides early education services to Native Hawaiian families and has received over $2 million annually in federal government grants in recent years, according to the group’s nonprofit tax returns. She is also a member of the nine-member board of directors, as are two other key staff members and two parents who have had children in the programs. The position of board president is currently vacant, according to the group’s web site.

The television program’s producers pointed to Akana’s actions more than a decade ago in founding the group when she was a welfare mother, and sustaining it at times using her own food stamps to buy snacks for participating children.

Although Keiki O Ka Aina’s programs have received universal praise, Akana no longer seems to fit the profile of someone desperately in personal need of the assistance of the network and the thousands of local donors and volunteers they were able to mobilize.

Akana, as executive director of Keiko O Ka Aina, was the organization’s highest paid employee and received $97,018 in direct compensation during the tax year ending September 30, 2005, the latest year publicly available. She also received $1,080 in allowances and $4,851 in other benefits.

Keiki O Ka Aina, which used the upstairs part of Akana’s former home as office space, also reported that it paid $22,320 in rent to Akana in each of the past two years.

Akana still owns her old home, located nearby. The 4333 square foot lot was assessed for tax purposes for $322,000 in October 2006, while the building was valued at $397,000.

Records filed in the Bureau of Conveyances indicate Akana also took title to a Lahaina time share unit in 2005 along with Keiki O Ka Aina administrator Jack Randall and Maria Randall, who is Akana’s mother.

Akana is now married to Ben Akana, an officer at First Hawaiian Bank.

Akana was not available to comment last week.

Kanoe Naone, community relations and development director for Keiki O Ka Aina, said the nonprofit group saw notices early this year inviting Hawaii residents to apply for a home makeover and hoped it could get assistance repairing buildings on the property it had just purchased.

“We applied as an organization,” Naone said. “What happened was they got back to us and said, ‘we don’t actually do non-profits, we do families, but we’re interested in the fact that you have affected so many families.’”

ABC’s producers invited the group to submit descriptions of staff members who work at the site.

“We had fifteen staff members who had great stories,” Naone said, “and ABC picked hers.”

ABC originally intended to demolish Akana’s nearby home, but found that wasn’t feasible due to the location of a stream, the proximity of adjacent homes, and the narrow street, Naone said.

“I have no idea how they decided to build two structures (both the residence and community center),” Naone said. “We did not know what was going to be built or where until they actually started construction.”

Duane Preble, a retired UH professor who served as president of the Keiki O Ka Aina board until mid-2006, described it as “a unique situation.”

“Her house has been the headquarters for the whole operation for a long time,” Preble said. “She’s had the whole staff in her house with the children underfoot. If there’s a breakfast room in the house, it’s basically also an office.”

Preble predicted that the new house, like Akana’s former home, will end up being used by her agency more than her family.

And Preble credited the exposure produced by the Extreme Makeover project with immediately bringing in several grants from local corporations to extend the Keiki O Ka Aina programs.

11 responses to ““Extreme Makeover” home built on land purchased with state grant to a nonprofit agency

  1. Wow. Duane is not mentioned as a board member on their website. And, the familial relationship between Momi and Jack Randall is not mentioned either. There is no President of the Board, and another staff member is also a board member. I would conclude that the governance and fiduciary function of that organization is dangerously compromised. Given the size and the assets involved, comingling of property, etc. that’s a problem. I think you are on to something, but it’s a sticky wicket, alright. It also points up the problems with the legislature’s grants-in-aid program. Did they know they were granting $2 million for a property on which the executive director and her family lives?

    Many are competing for funds, and it’s great that they are successful in being able to grow their valuable programs, and I hope that they can sustain themselves through what is heading towards a scandal.

    Interestingly, there’s no mention of the Exteme makeover project on their website either.

  2. I’m not surprised that the Extreme Makeover affair is not mentioned at all on KOKA’s website. If anything, it should be an embarrassment for Momi Akana to have a new 3,500 square foot home for her family built on land that is supposed to be utilized, not for her own personal benefit, but for KOKA’s.

    I’m also not surprised that the lease terms between Momi Akana and her non-profit org. is being kept confidential. Think about it. Momi was receiving $22,320 in annual rent from KOKA for her agency’s upstairs use of her old home, which was valued at $397,000. Now that her family is occupying the new house entirely, valued at over $600,000, what rent do you think she should be paying to her non-profit organization now? If it is revealed that the lease on the new house is not proportionally set to what Momi Akana was receiving for KOKA’s use of her old house, that would definitely be another source of embarrassment for the Akana family.

    You are absolutely right about how important it is for non-profit organizations not to have individuals that exercise both administrative and fiduciary functions, as that could lead to the potential for abuse and misappropriation. I hope Momi Akana and all her associates at KOKA realize that even if it is true that their agency has helped over 9,000 families, it does not make it okay for anyone on KOKA’s staff from making improper/personal use of the non-profit agency’s funds/properties.

    This story raises so many red flags that can’t be ignored. I suspect the IRS certainly won’t.

  3. http://presszoom.com/story_137683.html

    “U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the award of almost $3.5 million in grants to eight Honolulu-area organizations for educational improvement efforts under the No Child Left Behind Act……….
    Honolulu — Keiki O Ka ‘Aina Family Learning Center, $376,859.”

    July 24, 2007

    The money keeps rolling in!

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  6. Oh dear, having trouble keeping your envy at bay?? I say good for her – you people are just jealous. Heck, I wish someone would build me a free house, but I guess I havent piad enough dues. It did my heart good to see this woman and her family rewarded by the community.

  7. I was touched by the story that I saw on t.v. and from the testimonies I saw, I believe that Momi will be passing on her new found wealth back into the community which ever way she can. Judging from the looks of some of these comments, Momi has every reason to protect herself from jealous people acting hungry to rip her up.

  8. Its a frikin rip off, there so many other native Hawaiian familes out there, who doesn’t even have a home or someplace to sleep.

  9. Wow. It sounds to me like you miserable people are consumed by your jealousy. Momi didnt ask those people to build her home on that land. They did it because it was the safest option for her family. Leave this family alone. This woman has sacrificed for the needs of many families. Now why dont you go find a charity to volunteer for, or found and organization to do some good for your community. Oh thats right, you are to busy feeding into your own greed and envy to do something good for someone else. You people are absolutely pathetic.

  10. Oh, and she has a whole page on her website dedicated to Extreme Makover and the builder of the home.

  11. I don’t care if the Akana family was dis-honest or taking advantage of the system. My boyfriend, who is a painter, volunteered to help out on the homes. He told me that the house isn’t going to last long. They were painting while the drywall wasn’t dry and the frame of the house was all crooked. Plus the rain that whole week was heavy.

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