10 WHO MADE A DIFFERENCE
Every day through year's end, the Star-Bulletin will recognize 10 who changed Hawaii this year. Some were controversial, others shunned the spotlight. But all made a difference.
Watanabe inspires us to give
The nightclub owner rouses the community to make contributions to charitable causes
"It's not about me, it's about what the community can do to help people," says Liz Hata Watanabe, whose proactive support of local charities helped make a difference for many island residents in 2006.
Watanabe, owner of the O Lounge nightclub, adjacent to Ala Moana Center on Kapiolani Boulevard, frequently donates the proceeds from special events to island charities and makes personal contributions to others. When Watanabe found a flier on the floor of her club announcing a fundraiser for the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii at another nightclub, she promptly called the foundation to make a donation.
Watanabe's talent is not just an ability to raise funds, but also to do so through stylish, trendy events.
STAR-BULLETIN / 2005
Liz Hata Watanabe, owner of the O Lounge nightclub, often donates proceeds from special events to charity.
She created the "Women's Closet" -- a combination fashion show and designers' sale with discounts of up to 75 percent. A portion of proceeds went to various charities. "Women's Closet" was so popular that she created the "Children's Closet," also for charity, which offered new kids' clothes at sale prices while providing a drop-off point for "gently used" clothes for homeless families.
Watanabe presented four "Women's Closet" and two "Children's Closet" events in 2006, and they were so successful that other clubs have copied the concept for their own purposes.
Although the Kidney Foundation has been one of her favorite beneficiaries, Watanabe has also helped fund programs for victims of domestic violence, raised money for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina, collected clothes and personal care items for homeless families and supported Easter Seals by participating in this year's Taste of Honolulu.
Watanabe teamed up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters to invite children to write letters explaining why they should be given a trip to Disneyland. She tears up as she tells of the winning letter, from a boy who asked for the trip -- not for himself, but for his severely handicapped sister and her caretakers. Watanabe then funded the Disneyland adventure for four.
In 2007 she plans to create a nonprofit organization specifically to help children who have been rejected by other charities. If a child doesn't qualify for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, for example, they'll be able to come to her.
Watanabe says it's all about giving back.
"Am I just going to be one of those selfish women who does nothing in my life? I love life, and I love people, and it only takes one person to make a big clatter and get everybody involved."