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Hoʻomaikaʻi to our 2022 Kūpuna Collective Champions

The last year posed many challenges for Hawaiʻi’s kūpuna (older adults), ranging from the rising cost of living to the ever increasing digital divide. Partners from across the state stepped up to mālama (care for) our kūpuna family, friends, and neighbors by delivering food and meals when tables were empty, visiting isolated kūpuna at their homes, and linking kūpuna with much needed services. So much has changed throughout the pandemic, but something that has remained constant is the dedication of our Kūpuna Collective members and their commitment to ensure no kūpuna are left behind or without the kōkua (assistance, relief) they need.

Our members provide incredible acts of service every day, often quietly without recognition. It is because of this that we are especially honored to present this year’s Kūpuna Collective Champions, individuals who have been nominated by our community partners for their willingness to step up when times are tough, who ask the hard questions and propose solutions, and catalyze change for a more age-friendly Hawaiʻi. Collectively they have served thousands of kūpuna across the state in areas of housing, food security, healthcare, benefits navigation, social and cultural connectedness, digital inclusion, and emergency preparedness and community resilience. Here are this year’s Champions:

Alicia Higa

Waiʻanae Coast Comprehensive Health Center/ʻElepaio Social Services
“Alicia has led a team at WCCHC to provide and deliver prepared meals and fresh local products to kupuna doorsteps since May 2020 and continues to do so, also providing a program that doubles their EBT dollars if they come to the Farmers’ Market at Waiʻanae mall. She also finds ways to increase access to more medical care for the elderly.”

-Duane DeSoto, Nā Kama Kai

Derrick Ariyoshi

City & County of Honolulu, Elderly Affairs Division

“Derrick led our nonprofits through the pandemic, and gave credit to each NPO leader. His greatest strength is his humble mediation style of quietly summarizing what he’s hearing while wisely bridging differences with a suggestion that moves to a solution that brings the issues to a productive outcome. Hawaiʻi’s kūpuna pandemic successes were led by Derrick in his “We > Me,” “Together We Go,” humble style. Mahalo nui loa Derrick.”

-Rick Tabor, Hawaiʻi Pacific Gerontological Society

Diane Terada

Catholic Charities Hawaiʻi

“We appreciate all that [Diane at] Catholic Charities does in the community, the way they always make time to contribute to others, and their personal approach to helping kūpuna.”

-Jackie Boland, AARP Hawaiʻi

Jerry Correa and Melissa Ah Ho-Mauga

St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaiʻi

“Jerry and Melissa played vital roles in responding to the critical needs of kūpuna on Oʻahu during the COVID-19 pandemic. They can best be described as Service Warriors in the way they leaned into finding solutions for complex obstacles and challenges in the community. The Elderly Affairs Division reached out to St. Francis many times during the pandemic for their support in areas related to food distribution, vaccine access, and wraparound support services for Oʻahu’s most vulnerable kūpuna. Jerry, as CEO of St. Francis, never hesitated to lend support. “Tell me how we can help,” became an all too familiar response from Jerry which will always be appreciated. It wasn’t uncommon for Jerry himself to hop in a vehicle and make deliveries of meals and household goods to kūpuna from Waiʻanae to Waimānalo.

Melissa in her role as Vice President of Client Services was both the General and soldier by leading the many efforts that St. Francis supported. FEARLESS and DRIVEN are character attributes of this amazing woman.  The wellbeing and lives of our most vulnerable kūpuna can be directly attributed to the service hearts of these to two incredible Service Warriors. Mahalo Jerry and Melissa!”

-Derrick Ariyoshi, City & County of Honolulu, Elderly Affairs Division

Kaylee Braun

Mālama Kauaʻi

“Kaylee has deep ties to the elderly community on Kauaʻi while simultaneously caring for her own kūpuna. She strives to develop her food access work with intention, communication, and care. She coordinates our Farm to ECE program and is a true example of alohaʻāina while serving the vulnerable communities of Hawaiʻi, from young to old.”

-Stormy Soza, Mālama Kauaʻi

Keilee Simms

KEY Project

“Keilee has grown [our Kūpuna Program] immeasurably in such a short time with her program offerings, dedicated communication, and passion for nurturing their minds, souls, and bodies. She is a true friend, confidante, and leader for them on a daily basis and their trust in her is amazing. Keilee is a valuable asset not just to KEY, but to the kūpuna community as a whole.”

-Kehaulani Volhein, KEY Project

Kodie Solis-Kalani

Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili

“Kodie’s leadership is grounded in the relationships that she has cultivated in our community with kūpuna who both provide for and benefit from our food distribution program. Kodie gives the kūpuna in our community hope knowing that there is a generation of young leaders in our community who care about our kūpuna–which ultimately means they deeply care about the wellbeing of this place we call home and the perpetuation of the cultural values that we hold most dear.” 

-Noʻeau Peralto, Hui Mālama i ke Ala ʻŪlili

Merle O’Neill

Waikīkī Community Center

“Merle is a tireless advocate of community wellbeing and resilience serving all members of the community in great and small ways. She has incredible attention to detail and is so generous with her time and energy. Whether she is meeting you for a one-on-one or helping lead a group disaster-planning discussion it always feels like she has the same level of personal attention and care in every situation. She is fearless, and inspiring! All my votes are for Merle. I feel honored and privileged to know her.” 

-Miku Lenentine, CERENE, Center for Resilient Neighborhoods

Phil Acosta

Aloha Harvest

“Phil Acosta is a distinguished, effective icon in the arena of food security, and quite notably, the arena of kūpuna food security. His enduring impact is demonstrated by his leadership role in the planning for long-term solutions to eliminate hunger and food waste in Hawaiʻi. Phil consistently and continuously goes the extra mile. He is exceptional and an inspiration to all of us in the Kūpuna Collective.”

-Gary Simon, Hawaiʻi Family Caregivers Coalition

Ramona Mullahey

U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development, Honolulu Field Office

WIthout a doubt, Ramona is a super community connector and a champion for our kūpuna. While her professional work is focused on housing, she finds every possible opportunity to form collaborations and unity community partners across all sectors. Her work has directly helped to boost vaccination rates, expand broadband access, connect seniors to food resources, and empower care navigators to become resource linkers.”

-Colby Takeda, Pear Suite

For more information on the Kūpuna Collective, visit hiphi.org/kupuna or email kupunacollective@hiphi.org.

Lindsey Ilagan, MS

Lindsey Ilagan, MS

Program Manager: Kūpuna Initiatives
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