Tuesday, May 6, 2003

Isle woman is honored
as national Mom of Year

Mervlyn Kitashima, of Pearl City,
is the second from Hawaii to win

Mervlyn Kitashima couldn't believe it when she was selected as the National Mother of the Year.

"I thought I was not as capable as the other mothers," she said. "I was shocked but certainly willing to be a voice for mothers."


The competition was held by American Mothers Inc., an interfaith, nonpolitical, nonprofit organization whose purpose is to strengthen the moral and spiritual foundation of families.

The first National Mother of the Year award was presented to Honorary Chairwoman Sarah Delano Roosevelt, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mother, in 1935 at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York.

Kitashima, 48, of Pearl City, was selected from among 40 candidates nationwide Saturday during the organization's 68th annual national convention at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

She was earlier selected as the 2003 Hawaii Mother of the Year.

Mothers who entered the competition had to be age 45 or older and active in a religious organization, said Lianna McMillan, the organization's search chairwoman for Hawaii.

Kitashima, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the second mother from Hawaii to be selected as the National Mother of the Year. Carolyn Shumway, of Laie, was the first in 1996.

All candidates were asked to list the various community service organizations they were involved in and to write a 200-word essay on their children.

They were also required to give a short speech at the convention on a mother's role in homeland security.

"Before we secure the homeland, we got to secure the home ... to teach the children to love their country," Kitashima said.

"Merv speaks from the heart. ... You feel what she's saying," said Kathy Ho, secretary for the Hawaii State Association of American Mothers Inc.

Kitashima was born in Anahola, Kauai, and moved to Oahu when she attended Kamehameha Schools as a seventh-grader. That's where she met her husband, Daniel. They have seven children: four sons and three daughters ages 19 to 31.

Kitashima graduated from Kamehameha Schools in 1973, and all her children are Kamehameha alumni.

She works as a parent coordinator for Kamehameha Schools at the Kapalama campus.

Previously, she spent 16 years as a parent community network center facilitator for Pearl City Elementary School, the Leeward District Office and the state Department of Education.

In the past 10 years, Kitashima has traveled around the United States and Canada lecturing at various conferences on resilience and what teachers and families can do to help children bounce back from difficult circumstances.

American Mothers Inc. awarded Kitashima with a sculpture of a mother and her children and a three-diamond-studded pin.

"Regardless of what I've done in this world, I'm a mom first. That's the most important job," she said.


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