Winners announced for 2023 Maui County Outstanding Older American awards
Stephen Kealoha of Pukalani, Judith Mikami of Kaunakakai, and Betty Yamashiro of Kahului were selected to receive Maui County Outstanding Older American awards for 2023.
Their selections were announced at the County of Maui’s 54th annual Outstanding Older Americans Recognition event on Friday, May 5, 2023 at Tante’s Island Cuisine in Kahului.
The three honorees were among nine nominees who also included Pat Toyama of Kahului; Rose Freitas of Makawao; Sara Sanders of Wailuku; Ulu Keahi of Lahaina; Paula Keele of Pukalani; and Evalina “Nani” Watanabe of Kahului.
“We’re here to celebrate the members of our community who are doing impressive work by volunteering to help other seniors, by caring for the ʻāina, or by starting much needed services in the areas where you live or they live,” Mayor Richard Bissen said in presenting a proclamation for Older Americans Month in May. “They are making positive changes in the lives of others. Even more impressive – they are doing this valuable work after retiring from their careers.”
Stephen Kealoha has served as a volunteer and board member of organizations including Mālama Family Recovery Center, Aloha House, Maui United Way, St. Anthony Catholic Church and the Maui Leadership Council of Catholic Charities of Hawaiʻi. As a volunteer, Stephen helped create a job training program for mothers and pregnant women who sought assistance in recovering from substance use disorders. This program involved financial education, interview and resume-building skills, and job training. The participants in this program were able to find employment and create a stable living environment for themselves and their families.
Betty Yamashiro has been a member of the Wailuku Hongwanji Buddhist Women’s Association for many years and the Mōʻiliʻili Hongwanji Mission’s Project DANA site leader for 23 years, coordinating caregiving support and education for kupuna and their families and assisting with events. Yamashiro also serves as office manager for the Maui Okinawa Kenjin Kai Center in Wailuku and as the organization’s senior club coordinator, where she organizes field trips for members, makes friendly calls, and conducts periodic in-person checks with club members who no longer participate in activities outside of their home.
Judith Mikami is a strong advocate for the Molokaʻi community on healthcare and long-term care issues. Judy is a pivotal player in the Moloka’i Kupuna Care Program, in which she has been a grant writer, founder, and current adviser since 2021. Mikami was also a grant writer for Nā Puʻuwai from 2007 to 2015 and worked hard to secure monies for Molokaʻi’s sick and elderly. In 2007, she and her husband founded Rhen Liberty Dialysis, the only dialysis center on Molokaʻi. Mikami continues to seek and maintain funding for programs that assist Molokaʻi residents in need of services.
Maui County has been recognizing and celebrating older adults for their contributions and achievements since 1968. Last year’s honorees were Ernie Rezents of Makawao and Joanne Rockwell of Lahaina.
The County of Maui Office on Aging staff encourages the community to celebrate all older Americans year-round and remember the legacies they leave behind.