Morita’s miles help food bank staff attend dinner

Not only did state Rep. Hermina “Mina” Morita, D-Kapa’a-Hanalei, nominate Kauai Food Bank for a prestigious award for nonprofit organizations, when it won she offered up some of her frequent-flyer miles to staff members so they could attend the Honolulu awards ceremony.

Working with friends at the Hawai’i Community Foundation, Kauai Food Bank Executive Director Judith “Judy” Lenthall was able to secure funds for additional airfare for her staff, so that she, board President Mark Gregory, and staff members Anthony “Tony” Koerte, Kelvin Moniz, Analyn Flores and Helen Juliano could enjoy a night out in the big city, together, away from the stress that is worrying about trying to find funds and food to feed several thousand Kauaians each month.

Oh, by the way, The Cades Foundation Nonprofit Leadership Award, given to Lenthall representing the food bank in the category recognizing a not-for-profit organization for community impact and leadership, comes with a $10,000 prize.

“Not bad for a rural part of the world. Not too shabby,” Lenthall said.

“We were excited. It was a big deal for the food bank,” said Juliano, food bank development projects coordinator.

It shows all of the hard work done by Lenthall and her staff, Juliano said.

The multi-faceted food bank staff members do more than just pass out food to the hungry, as the Kauai Fresh program leaders get fresh, Kaua’i-grown produce to low-income seniors (benefiting both local farmers and seniors), and, working with volunteers at food pantries across the island large and small, feed thousands of people each month, while also encouraging job-training initiatives that lead to economic self-sufficiency, Lenthall said.

It’s “not a handout, it’s a hand up, to help those in need,” Lenthall said.

The event on O’ahu was the Pacific Business News Fourth Annual Business Leadership Hawaii, and food bank officials beat out some stiff competition in the not-for-profit category: Easter Seals Hawaii, Goodwill Industries of Hawaii, Hina Mauka and Homeless Solutions.

Over 900 people attended the dinner and ceremonies at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom in Honolulu.

“Kaua’i can be very proud of Judy, the board of directors, and, especially the dedicated employees of the Kauai Food Bank,” Morita said.

“This was a statewide competitive process of Hawai’i’s most innovative and productive nonprofits. Judy and the Kauai Food Bank team demonstrated business savvy, ingenuity, dedication and compassion, which deeply impressed the panel of judges,” said Morita.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Princeville Operating Company and Grove Farm for hosting the Kauai Food Bank at the banquet, and the Hawai’i Community Foundation for pitching in with some travel scholarships,” Morita continued.

“This was a ‘Honolulu-centered’ event, and it took a real team effort and our Kaua’i ‘ohana to make sure that the Kauai Food Bank was properly represented,” she added.

In addition to feeding approximately 7,000 individuals a month and distributing over 1 million pounds of food to Kaua’i residents over the past year, Kauai Food Bank staff members also teach individuals how to grow their own food, and have served as models for similar programs on other islands, on the Mainland, Canada, and American Samoa, Morita explained.

For more information about the Kauai Food Bank, please call 246-3809.

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