Maui County’s ‘Women of Excellence’ Awards Presented

April 23, 2015, 4:39 PM HST · Updated April 23, 4:40 PM
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Women of Excellence Winners 2015

Women of Excellence winners pose with Committee on the Status of Women Chair Molly Murawski (far right), Managing Director Keith Regan and Yuki Lei Sugimura, representative for Senator Mazie Hirono (center, back). Front row, L-R: Mike McNeff on behalf of Lyn McNeff; Teresa Skinner; Aggie Cabebe; Kathy “Tita” Collins, Stacy Moniz and Lois Reiswig. Courtesy photo.

By Maui Now Staff

Maui County’s Committee on the Status of Women celebrated Women’s History month with its annual “Women of Excellence” awards presentation on Tuesday, March 31, in the Mayor’s Conference Room.

Categories and recipients of the 2015 Women of Excellence awards are as follows:

21 to 59 Years Old

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Kathy “Tita” Collins, co-founder of Mana‘o Radio, a columnist for The Maui News and program specialist with the County of Maui’s congregate nutrition program at Kaunoa Senior Center was nominated by Richard Kelley.

Kelley noted that Collins’ numerous performances and writings offer a heartfelt and often humorous view of living life to the fullest on a remote Pacific island.

“Her strength, character, determination and ability allow her to achieve and accomplish her goals, and she serves as a strong role model for both young girls and women,” said Kelley. “Kathy is relentless in supporting those causes that are designed to help… our community. The word ‘no’ doesn’t appear to be a part of her vocabulary. Kathy truly sets the bar for all of us.”

Teresa Skinner, founder and director of Suzuki-Maui Talent Education and Ability Development, was nominated by Susan Bradley. Bradley noted that Skinner, one of the finest violin and viola players on Maui, devotes her heart and talent to developing the musical talents of youngsters.

“At a time when arts education is being restricted in the schools, Teresa’s work is… triply important,” said Bradley. “She lives, plays and teaches with a selfless dedication to her art and pupils so that she may be heard best in the joy she inspired a part of our larger humanity–not calling attention to herself, but always ready to give to others and work with them to achieve something beautiful.”

60 Years & Up

Agrifina Cabebe, past president of the Binhi At Ani Community Center and past chair of the Maui Barrio Fiesta and Miss Maui Filipina Scholarship Pageant, was nominated by her and son, R. Raymond Cabebe. Raymond said his mother has been instrumental in promoting and preserving the Filipino culture through dance and other activities in Maui County for more than half a century, and has been involved with nearly every Filipino organization on the island.

Cabebe was born in Pāʻia, grew up in the plantation camps, and as was customary, took a year off from high school to work but never returned to graduate. She later received her GED and attended Maui Technical School, then spending her career working at Maui Land & Pineapple until retiring as a personnel office clerk.

“At a time when women were not accepted as leaders in the community, Aggie took on leadership roles within organizations,” said Raymond. “She continues to lead through example with her volunteerism, and many community members still seek her out for advice on cultural and community issues.”

Lyn McNeff, CEO of Maui Economic Opportunity Inc, was nominated by Kai Pelayo, who submitted a lengthy list of the many boards, councils, associations, commissions and organizations she has served on–many of which support young children, families, farm workers and nonprofits.

McNeff joined MEO Inc. in 1993 as its education/disabilities coordinator. In 2005 she was promoted to chief programs officer, and was named CEO in 2011. Lynn successfully wrote and administrated several federal grants bringing much-needed jobs and services to Maui County, and led MEO through some fiscally challenging times. Through it all, she remained committed to her family and her church, balancing her responsibilities with skill.

“She is a fine example of a woman who has it all–a loving husband, children and grandchildren, a strong sense of community and a successful career,” said  Pelayo. “Through all of this, she remains humble, putting service to others before herself.”

Woman’s Group (Groups that contribute powerfully and positively to the community):

Stacey Moniz, executive director of Women Helping Women, serves on the county-wide Coalition on Domestic Violence, as an outreach specialist with MPD’s Domestic Violence Response Team, and as an educator on the dynamics of domestic abuse.

Nominator Grace DePorter commended Moniz and her staff on their mission to stop the violence, by offering information about ending domestic violence for good, and lending support to individuals and the community.

“Women Helping Women is a strong and caring force in the County of Maui,” said DePorter. “They tirelessly work within the system to ensure victims of domestic violence receive the support and understanding they need… as well as a fair chance at justice.”

Lois Reiswig is a Hui Hoaloha chair, Maui Plein Air Festival organizer, former Maui leadership council member for Hawaiʻi Community Foundation and supporter of numerous nonprofits including The MACC, Maui Prep Academy and Maui Culinary Academy.

About 13 years ago, Lois started monthly luncheons for a few dozen women interested in becoming more involved in the community. Since then, 70 to 100 women attend monthly lunches and field trips, and their generosity has benefited numerous Maui nonprofits including schools, health, animal, art and social service organizations.

Nominator Jocelyn Demirbag said that Lois “has a big heart and truly loves Maui… She cares so much about Maui and knows there are many on Maui who have time and resources to share. Lois has created a vehicle for helping these women find just how they can also contribute to the island. Involvement is the key to a healthy community and Lois lives this with every fiber of her being. I want to be Lois when I grow up.”

Also honored for their contributions by being nominated for the awards were:

Carolee “Aunty Doll” Aricayos, hula, Tahitian dance, ʻukulele and Hawaiian language instructor;
Lauralee Blanchard, founder and president of Leilani Farm Sanctuary of Maui;
Angela Kepler, an actively retired botanist and pianist;
Caroline Killhour, executive director of Hui Noeau Visual Arts Center;
Bobbi-Jo Moniz-Tadeo, ACDP program director and early childhood specialist;
Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, chair of Haleakalā Waldorf School; and
Tamara Sherrill, executive director of Maui Nui Botanical Gardens.

Women’s history month is a national celebration of women. In accordance with the national women’s movement, this year’s award theme, “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives,” honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women.

This formal recognition of women was started in 1980 by President Carter as a week-long celebration. In 1987, the US Congress expanded it to the month of March.

“There is so much we have taken for granted about the women who have taught us, loved us, even corrected us,” said Managing Director Keith Regan, who addressed the audience on behalf of Mayor Alan Arakawa. “This award ceremony is just one small way we can begin to acknowledge the gratitude we have for the many contributions women continue to make right here in Maui County.”

Maui’s awardees stand side-by-side with nine women recognized nationally this month, including Delilah L. Beasley, historian and newspaper columnist; Gladys Tantaquidgeon, Mohegan medicine woman, anthropologist and tribal elder; Eleanor Flexner, historian and independent scholar; Polly Welts Kaufman, writer, teacher and activist; Lynn Sherr, broadcast journalist and author; Judy Yung, oral historian, author and professor; Darlene Clark Hine, historian and educator; Holly Near, singer, songwriter and social activist; and Vicki L. Ruiz, educator and pioneer in Latina history.

For information on the Maui County Committee on the Status of Women, go online.

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