Maui News

Japanese Cultural Society of Maui to Honor 10 with Resilience Award

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The Japanese Cultural Society of Maui will honor 10 Maui individuals with the Resilience Award, recognized for their leadership and community service in 2020.

The awardees were nominated and have been selected for going above and beyond their own capacity to give back to the community, and for being an inspiration during these trying times of the pandemic.

The awardees will be recognized at JCSM’s annual Shinnen Enkai New Year celebration, which will be held online on Saturday, Jan. 23 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Registration is free, and sponsorship opportunities are available at

The awardees include:

  • Aris Almerida Banaag, Task Force Maui Medical COVID-19 Response

“Captain Aris Banaag led the Task Force Maui Medical Response COVID-19 Mission for the Hawaiʻi National Guard on Maui. Their operations are on-going. His team has provided numerous safety and educational briefings to private and public entities, and led the swabbing and PPE training for all Airport Rescue Firefighters ʻfor Maui County. His team was present at every COVID-19 surveillance, testing operation, contact tracing education and every crisis response. Aris is on the ground helping transport boxes of relief goods to car trunks at most Binhi At Ani Food distribution drive. With the countless hours Aris has devoted to keeping us safe during this pandemic, we are fortunate to have leaders like him protect and serve our community.”

  • Evanette Hardin, Family Life Center

“As many families endure making ends meet for shelter during the pandemic, Eva doubled her efforts to make sure the homeless are not forgotten. She has made it a family affair to provide unavailable support such as transportation to those in need, sacrificing her personal resources, time, and even her own health, just to ensure a vulnerable family is safe with a warm home and bed. Eva is an unsung hero whose compassion and love for the community is often unnoticed, but for the countless families she’s helped, to them she is an angel.”

  • Dr. Lui K. Hokoana, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College

“In addition to leading the transition for University of Hawaiʻi Maui College students to attend full-online classes during this pandemic, Chancellor Hokoana made sure to carve out time in his schedule to help produce initiatives that help fight COVID-19. UHMC became a hub for community-led efforts such as the Contact Tracer Training for state administrators and employees. Lui made sure the community knew the college was available and willing to support resilience efforts. While many in the community were laid off and unemployed, he partnered with the County of Maui to create the Maui County Virtual Job Fair to help train displaced workers to find new jobs and careers. He also helped execute several food distribution initiatives, and most recently, hosted COVID-vaccination drive-thru events. Though he is typically one who prefers to be behind-the-scenes, the chancellor’s commitment to innovation, culture and community especially during a pandemic has inspired his peers in the academe, the students, and the Maui community.”

  • Chef Kyle Kawakami, Maui Fresh Streatery

“Chef Kawakami cooked and prepared nearly 5,000 hot, delicious meals for the past 44 weeks, which provided sustenance for socially isolated, high-risk kūpuna all over Maui during this pandemic. With support from individual donations from his Aloha Tip Jar, volunteer “food angels” who help deliver the food, and with generous community partners, he showed resilience with his Kōkua Meals Initiative program despite enduring temporary closure with his food truck business. Chef Kyle wouldn’t think twice when presented with an opportunity to help his community.”

  • Megan Nakashima, Pukalani Superette

“Though she may seem quiet and unassuming, Megan’s resourcefulness and strength shone when her community called for help during this pandemic. As President of Pukalani Superette, she utilized her connections to source food and raise donations for food distributions to Upcountry residents in need. She was instrumental in the success of various initiatives by Pukalani Elementary, Upcountry Strong and Women Helping Women. Her hands-on and humble leadership has inspired others to give back to the community as well.”

  • Shannon Loo and Jonah Valois-Nishimura, Maui Minyo Kai

“When the much-anticipated Bon Dance festivals around the island were canceled, Shannon and Jonah created Zoomdori – bringing the Japanese cultural dances online. The duo held online classes every Friday night from March to September 2020, reaching an audience in the thousands as far as Asia to the US Mainland. The effort did not only promote their love for Japanese dance, which brought many smiles and cultivated friendships, but their display of resilience provided healing and breathing space for the many affected by the pandemic.”

  • Jennifer Oberg, Maui Face Mask Project

“When there was a demand for face masks to protect the community from the virus, the Maui Face Mask Project responded. Leveraging her expertise as a top-notch dressmaker, Jennifer worked with medical professionals to design an N-95 equivalent mask, then organized a dedicated group of volunteers to produce thousands. She rose to the challenge and brought many others up with her. The masks provided protection for Maui healthcare professionals and essential workers – literally saving many lives. Jennifer’s resilience inspired many others to do the same, prompting many volunteers and community partners to respond, which also cultivated friendships and a sense of purpose during this difficult and isolated time. She continues to make masks through the Maui Sewing Hui and hopes to continue to inspire more to give back to the community.”

  • Leinaala Perry, Project Hoʻomana

“Leinaala, together with her daughters Tyra-Li and Pristine, re-imagined Project Hoʻomana of East Maui to address the basic needs affected by the pandemic for their community. Lei fundraised, organized and empowered her community – especially the kupuna and keiki, with over 50 distributions in Hāna ranging from school supplies, footwear, “kupuna blessing bags”, weekly produce at the farmers market, turkeys for Thanksgiving, toys and food truck vouchers for Christmas and monthly food boxes. Today, Lei is still fundraising to do more and improve their operations, so she can continue to be a blessing to her community.”

  • John Tryggestad, Maui Friends of the Library

“Maui Friends of the Library is one of the many nonprofits affected by the pandemic as its stores were forced to temporarily close, giving a halt to its primary fundraising source. But because of the leadership of their president John Tryggestad, they were able to uphold and continue their mission to provide support to libraries and enhance the community’s learning experience through used books and resources. With new safety protocols in place, John provided leadership in the distribution of more than 8,400 books to Maui teachers, librarians, and parents of homeschoolers. This was coupled with their Holoholo Bookmobile, which provided much needed support to families. John ensured that learning will never be canceled on Maui because of MFOL’s commitment to the community.”

“This event promises to be a night of inspiration and hope – something we need to look forward to for this year’s challenges,” said Deron Furukawa, president of JCSM. “I invite you all to celebrate and honor these remarkable awardees with us, and help share their stories to create positive change in our community.” 

The event is free and open to the public. All funds raised will go towards JCSM’s Scholarship Program.


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