The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) recently honored 11 individuals, businesses and organizations with Pualu Awards during its annual installation and membership banquet at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.
“Meaning to ‘work together,’ Pualu Awards were established in 1979 to honor those in West Hawaii for their dedication and hard work in the community,” explained Vivan Landrum, Chamber president and CEO.
Winners are tapped in seven categories and selected by an awards committee from nominations received from Chamber members and the general public.
The Community Education award honors an individual or organization that promotes and supports education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning.
There are three recipients of this award: Kei-Lin Cerf of Kealakehe High School’s Life Plan Youth Mentoring Program, West Hawaii Community Health Center and Jack’s Diving Locker
Life Plan pairs community volunteers with high school classrooms to learn about students’ individual values, dreams and goals. These mentors assist in turning these aspirations for students into action steps for success.
Currently, the program supports almost 650 students with the help of 32 volunteer mentors, 32 homeroom teachers and 42 youth leaders. At the helm of this program is Cerf, who for the past four years has taken this program to a new level through her innovation, dedication and hard work.
West Hawaii Community Health Center was honored for its Patient Centered Health Care Home program that builds personal relationships through medical providers. These professionals bring education and coaching to high-risk patients with chronic diseases and significant health challenges.
This program establishes an ongoing and long-lasting relationship that educates patients about how to self-manage their health care and improve outcomes.
Jack’s Diving Locker has been offering educational programs in ocean ecology, marine life conservation and environmental stewardship for kids and teens since 1987.
Jack’s educational Junior Programs include a six-week Sea Camp for ages 8-14 and a Keiki Sea Camp for ages 6-8. These camps focus on marine life education, and positively impact the lives of many children in the community as well as ocean resources.
The Environmental Awareness Award taps an individual or organization that exhibits sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices.
There are two recipients in this category: David Chai and the Hawaii Wildlife Center.
Chai has been active in pond and wetland environmental assessment and management plans since the late 1980s. His many projects include restoring water resources and monitoring marine life and water quality at Hawaii Volcanoes, Kaloko-Honokohau and Pu‘uhonua o Honaunau national parks, plus the shorelines of Makalawaena, Awake‘e, Kohanaiki and Kiholo.
In addition, one of his projects, a water feature at Ke‘olu Golf Course, received one of only two EPA environmental awards in Hawaii, and was cited as an example of natural filtration technology and its potential application to keep all Hawaii streams, lakes and oceans free of harmful pollutants.
The Hawaii Wildlife Center is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the conservation of native birds and the Hawaiian hoary bat. It is the first organization of its kind exclusively for native Hawaiian wildlife and is the state’s only organization providing professional wildlife response services exceeding the national standards, including state-of-the-art care and rehabilitation to all species of native birds and bats throughout the Hawaiian Islands.
In addition to wildlife treatment, it also provides rescue and response training and research assistance for wildlife response to seabird fallout and contaminant spills and avian diseases.
The Business Innovation Award honors a business or organization committed to improving or enhancing employees’ lives, or exhibits creative product development, marketing or customer service.
The recipient is Interim Dean Farrah-Marie Gomes of the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s College of Continuing Education and Community Service (CCECS).
In an effort to ensure the island has a viable workforce, Gomes was proactive in forming creative and innovative credit and non-credit classes and professional development programs to meet new workforce needs. The CCECS program worked with community partners to ascertain the training needs, identify curriculum and forge delivery partnerships to address those needs.
The Lifetime Service Award taps an individual who made a lifelong commitment to the community exemplified by their personal and/or business achievements.
This year’s recipients are Gretchen Lawson and the late Guy Toyama.
Lawson has dedicated the last 18-plus years of her life to empowering persons with disabilities to live life to the fullest. Under her leadership, the Arc of Kona moved from near bankruptcy to a thriving, financially secure, effective and well-respected organization that employs more than 100 individuals who are offered opportunities for self-improvement and training.
Outside of the office, the Holualoa resident has been an avid advocate for the disabled by participating in government and community organizations including the Hawaii State Rehabilitation Council, the UH College of Education Advisory Board, the State Medicaid Infrastructure Grant Advisory Board and the County of Hawaii Community Alliance Partners.
Toyama was dedicated to improving the quality of life in West Hawaii. During his short 42 years of life, his leadership in entrepreneurship, business development, education and policy illustrated his unmatched passion for inspiring the community to be more self-reliant and sustainable.
Toyama organized dozens of conferences and workshops at the NELHA Gateway Center, hosted environmental films for the Kona Earth Festival and helped organize community events. He also helped build relationships between the County of Hawaii and Japan and was instrumental in the establishment of a sister-city relationship between KKCC and the Hatsukaichi Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Hiroshima.
The Visitor Industry Marketing Award is presented each year to a person or group that diligently works to promote the visitor industry in West Hawaii.
This year’s recipient is Gerry Rott of the Lavaman Waikoloa Triathlon.
Since its inception in 1997, the number of participants for the Waikoloa Lavaman has grown from 83 to more than 1,500.
Rott’s ingenious job of branding the Lavaman Triathlon series — including the signature petroglyph logo, website, merchandising, vendor exhibits, celebrity participants, creative sponsorship opportunities and ever-changing event additions, such as the Friday Night Fun Run and Lavakids — keeps the event fresh and appealing to repeat participants, and consistently draws in new athletes, volunteers and sponsors each year.
The Culture &Heritage award is given to an individual or organization that has exhibited, through its actions, practices that promote island traditions and preserves its multicultural heritage.
This year’s recipient is Rick Gaffney.
Gaffney has undertaken leadership responsibility to promote island traditions and help preserve its cultural heritage by contributing time and money to the preservation of Hawaii’s unique marine traditions and multicultural heritage.
While the voyaging canoe Hokule‘a was in dry dock during preparation for its current worldwide voyage, Gaffney arranged for the donation of a $250,000 sailing catamaran to the Polynesian Voyaging Society to be used as a navigation and training platform. Upon the launch of Hokule‘a this year, he arranged for the transfer of that sailing catamaran to a local business here and supported the work of the Nakoa Foundation to continue the training of Kona’s youth in the traditional use of Hawaiian sailing and fishing canoes.
The Chamber Member of the Year award honors an individual who advocates, promotes and supports the mission of KKCC through active participation on committees, events, membership and/or community service.
This year, KKCC honors Sharon Sakai.
The Hawaii Island native has been very active in KKCC for 15 years, serving as a member of the Board of Directors for several terms and South Kohala vice president, and participating on the Marketing &Communications Committee, the Education Resource Group and the Economic Development Committee.
She has worked tirelessly as a behind-the-scenes volunteer by staffing KKCC events and offering support and guidance.
“I couldn’t imagine the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce being where it is today without the support and guidance of Sharon Sakai,” Landrum said. “She exemplifies service above self and is truly deserving of this award.”