Maui News

Maui and Stevens Point mayors declare January as Connected Communities month

January 8, 2022, 4:41 PM HST
* Updated January 8, 5:25 PM
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After more than a year of building connections through conversation, Maui County Micheal Victorino and Stevens Point, Wisconsin mayor Mike Wiza, are formalizing a relationship between their communities.

Earlier this week, the mayors signed a proclamation declaring January as Maui-Stevens Point Connected Communities month, which will become an annual celebration. Sentry Insurance laid the foundation for the proclamation in advance of the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions, which began on Thursday.

‘Embracing Maui as home’

In addition to the many charities the tournament supports, Sentry has enhanced its charitable giving each year. This includes creating a scholarship program for graduates of Maui County public high schools, providing financial support for COVID-19 pandemic relief efforts on island, and, more recently, providing financial support to help address childhood hunger in Maui County.

“We’ve embraced Maui as our home, just as we’ve called Stevens Point home for 110 years,” said Pete McPartland, Sentry chairman of the board, president, and CEO. “While thousands of miles apart with vastly different climates, we’ve learned that Maui and Stevens Point share many similarities and values. These include a focus on community service, education and youth, arts and culture, and agriculture and land use. Now, we aim to build on these commonalities.”

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The Connected Communities initiative will serve to connect similar organizations in these and other areas to exchange ideas and best practices to benefit both communities.

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“Maui County’s partnership with Sentry through Connected Communities reminds us that while Hawaiʻi is more than 4,000 miles away from Sentry’s home in Wisconsin, our people, values, priorities, and challenges are nearly identical,” Maui County Mayor Victorino said. “We deeply appreciate the lei of aloha between the people of Sentry and the people of Maui County.”

Just the beginning

The Connected Communities proclamation marks the beginning of building relationships. Sentry has recently initiated conversations between the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College and University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point, the Maui and Portage County United Ways, and the Maui Arts League and Karen Ann Hoffman, a Stevens Point artist.

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“Central Wisconsin is a rural place, but rich with scenic beauty and authentic culture—not unlike being on an island,” said Chris Richards, vice chancellor for University Advancement at UWSP. “Many of our students are the first in their family to attend college and benefit from transformational experiences inside and outside the classroom. They graduate with purpose and a passion to make a difference in the world.”

Already, he and Jocelyn Romero Demirbag, director of development at the University of Hawaiʻi Foundation, and their chancellors are discussing student and faculty exchanges.

“It’s indispensable for an institution like ours that is not in a hub of metropolitan activity to have those experiences for our faculty, our staff, and our students—to have conversations with people who share values, but approach life in an entirely different way,” Richards said. “That’s the power of conversation that Sentry’s making possible.”

Those conversations “are what we’re called to do in life,” Romero Demirbag said. “We’re supposed to understand what other people are like. What are they doing? How do we work together regardless of our differences? And that question has never been more important in our country than now. Right now, how do we work together? Well, you start by sitting together in the same space and finding our commonalities. So, the fact that this Connected Communities initiative is happening is not only genius, but so needed.”

Mayors Wiza and Victorino plan to visit Maui and Stevens Point, respectively, in 2022 to meet with community organizations and make additional connections that they hope, too, will foster further conversations that bear fruit for both communities.

“The partnership that Sentry has created through Connected Communities is really something special,” Mayor Wiza said. “It helps us understand that even though we’re nearly half a world apart, the people, values, priorities, and challenges are the same. Together, we grow stronger through that connection.”

Sentry will support the Connected Communities initiative through its foundation.

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