COURTESY OF HAWAII COMMUNITY FOUNDATION/BRADLEY GODA PHOTOGRAPHY
Hawaii Community Foundation Ho'okele Award winners are, from left, Dale B. Bonar, Gary Maunakea-Forth, Rose Nakamura, Kukui Maunakea-Forth and Mike Gleason.
Ho‘okeles award isle drive
Efforts to help the poor and elderly are praised at the event
Rose Nakamura learned firsthand about helping the elderly as her mother's caregiver.
After she retired from the East-West Center in 1989, she co-founded the interfaith Project DANA (a Sanskrit word that means "selfless giving"), starting with 55 volunteers serving 110 seniors and growing to 750 volunteers and helping 950 seniors today.
Nakamura has a passion for helping others -- an attribute she has in common with Dale B. Bonar, executive director of Maui Coastal Land Trust; Gary and Kukui Maunakea-Forth, founders of MA'O Farms; and Mike Gleason, president and chief executive officer of The Arc in Hilo.
They were honored last week with the 2007 Ho'okele Awards by the Hawaii Community Foundation, in partnership with the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, at the Pacific Club.
At the Arc of Hilo, Gleason tripled the agency's financial resources, employees and clients with disabilities, he said. He did this through the creation of a commercial services division that not only provided work, wages, and self-worth to his clients, but also the income to support his program.
Gleason's compassion for the disabled also sprung from helping his sister endure the debilitation of a terminal disease, he said.
Bonar, a marine biologist who "grew up here, in the water," puts in a 90-hour work week as helmsman of the Maui Coastal Land Trust and as a volunteer. His mission is to protect the natural habitat "in perpetuity" as a way of "giving something back" for being "incredibly fortunate to live in the islands," he said. Creating partnerships among nonprofit groups, government and private landowners is his area of expertise. He is a state-appointed, unpaid commissioner on the Hawaii State Legacy Lands and Hawaii State Natural Areas Reserve System.
The Maunakea-Forths of Waianae founded MA'0 (Mala'Ai'Opio, which means "garden/food/youth") Farms in 2001 to combat the "endless cycle of wasted lives, wasted opportunities" resulting from the rampant use crystal methamphetamine among the neighborhood youth, said Gary Maunakea-Forth.
Working on the organic vegetable farm has given hundreds of young people, from elementary to post-high school age, the chance to develop a work ethic and entrepreneurial skills that would prove invaluable to their future, he said.
"It was a pipeline to get kids on the right track," he said.
Gleason's drive with the Arc of Hilo is an outgrowth of his earlier training as a vocational rehabilitation specialist and special education teacher, who "saw the struggles people with disabilities had."
Last year, Bonar said he helped to raise more than $2 million from the Maui community as a volunteer for Maui Coastal Land Trust to acquire and protect parcels of land from overdevelopment for the "greater public good."
Now 79, Nakamura has administered Project DANA for 18 years. "It is important to help others, and do small acts of kindness," she said.