Maui Business

Molokaʻi Man Honored Among Nonprofit Leaders

August 19, 2016, 2:05 PM HST
* Updated August 19, 2:08 PM
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Pictured from left to right: John Leong, Juliana Rapu Leong, Paul Singer, Christine Richardson and William Akutagawa, Jr., courtesy of the Hawaii Community Foundation.

Pictured from left to right: John Leong, Juliana Rapu Leong, Paul Singer, Christine Richardson and William Akutagawa, Jr., courtesy of the Hawaii Community Foundation.

A healthcare worker on Moloka‘i is among five individuals that were honored by the Hawai‘i Community Foundation during its 15th annual Ho‘okele awards for Hawai‘i’s nonprofit leaders.

William M. Akutagawa, Jr., the executive director and founder of Na Pu‘uwai on Moloka‘i, was recognized for his commitment to making Hawai‘i a better place through the work he does.

As part of the award, he was gifted $10,000 to be used for professional development and personal renewal.

Na Pu‘uwai is a Native Hawaiian health care system serving Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i. Akutagawa has spent nearly half of his life working in the nonprofit sector working as an advocate for health and wellness for Native Hawaiians. He also serves as a board member for the Moloka‘i Land Trust and instructor with the Hawai‘i Hunter Education Program.

This year also marked the Hawai‘i Community Foundation’s centennial anniversary.


The Ho‘okele Awards, created and funded in partnership with the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, pays tribute to and strengthens the leadership in the state’s nonprofit sector by providing selfless leaders with an opportunity to renew themselves in their personal and professional lives. Since 2002, $600,000 has been awarded to 63 nonprofit leaders statewide, the majority of which remain in the nonprofit and public sectors.


Four other leaders were also recognized for their work as part of the Ho‘okele awards ceremony.

They include: John Leong, chief executive officer and co-founder of Kupu and Julianna Rapu Leong, secretary, board of directors and co-founder of Kupu; Christine Richardson, executive director of North Kohala Community Resource Center; and Paul Singer, head of school, Assets Schools were all recognized for their contributions and commitment to their organizations and strengthening the community.

“As we celebrate our 100th anniversary for HCF and the 15th anniversary for the Ho‘okele Award, we are honored to recognize these hardworking and inspiring individuals for their years of service in our community,” said Kelvin Taketa, CEO of the Hawai‘i Community Foundation.


“While working in the nonprofit sector can be incredibly rewarding, it is also very demanding, which experiences high rates of burnout and turnover. By investing in our nonprofit leaders, we hope to bring about lasting change and build stronger communities in Hawai‘i,” said Taketa.

The Ho‘okele honorees are nominated by members of the community for their ability to think strategically, bring different groups of people together, inspire others, enthusiastically share their knowledge, and make a difference in Hawai‘i.

Last year’s Ho‘okele recipients were Kepā Maly of Lāna‘i Culture & Heritage Center, Richard Taaffe of the West Hawai‘i Community Health Center, Marian Tsuji of Lanakila Pacific and Harry Wong, III of Kumu Kahua Theatre.

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