Kobashigawa goes way beyond the call

Lyle Kobashigawa of Kauai Kookie Kompany is being heralded today as a “gem,” a lifesaver,

an employer who went way beyond the call for an employee, and holder of a prestigious Presidential Citation signed by President George Bush.

Over the years, Kobashigawa has turned to those at Friendship House for workers for Kauai Kookie Kompany.

What he recently did for one worker, though, is described by Friendship House leaders as nothing short of “valiant.”

He is a “hero,” they said.

Kobashigawa, assistant vice president of Big Save’s food service division, not only took an employee experiencing chest pains to the Kaua’i Fire Department Hanapepe fire station to get looked at, he then followed him to Kauai Veterans Memorial Hospital at the West Kauai Medical Center in Waimea, then went to Honolulu to assist him when he had be flown by air ambulance to Straub Clinic & Hospital.

When the man was discharged, Kobashigawa was there, and used his credit card to fly the man back home to Kaua’i.

For this effort, leaders at Friendship House and the affiliated International Center for Clubhouse Development (ICCD) nominated Kobashigawa for a Presidential Citation.

Officials at the White House agreed, and Kobashigawa got the Presidential Citation and a special Friendship House award, at the Seventh Annual Friendship House Employers Awards Banquet at the Kaua’i Marriott Resort & Beach Club.

Many employers on Kaua’i have partnered with leaders of Friendship House in Kapa’a by providing transitional employment for members, but none so remarkably as Kobashigawa, who has been supporting this program since 1996, a Friendship House spokesperson said.

Kobashigawa recently went way beyond the call of duty in order to help his employee, a member of Friendship House, who suffered chest pains while on the job.

First, Kobashigawa took the employee (because he is a member of Friendship House, confidentiality matters prohibit him from being named) to the nearby KFD Hanapepe fire station from the Kauai Kookie Kompany headquarters in Hanapepe, to have him checked out.

Though emergency personnel there did not think the member suffered a heart attack, they arranged to have him taken by ambulance to KVMH.

Kobashigawa met the member at the hospital, where they were also joined by the member’s father and Iris Ijima, the site manager for the Friendship House Transitional Employment Program.

At KVMH, doctors determined that the member had indeed suffered a heart attack, and that he needed to be flown by air ambulance to Straub Clinic & Hospital in Honolulu.

Since the member’s elderly father had some concerns about communicating with doctors, he asked Kobashigawa to accompany his son to Honolulu.

Kobashigawa enthusiastically agreed, according to the Friendship House spokesperson.

Using his own airline mileage points to procure himself a ticket, Kobashigawa flew to Honolulu to assist his employee, now a patient at Straub Clinic & Hospital.

Throughout the member’s stay at Straub, Kobashigawa consulted with his doctors, the Friendship House spokesperson said.

When the member was released the next day, Kobashigawa checked him out of the hospital, and used his own credit card to make plane reservations to get the man home.

When they arrived on Kaua’i, Kobashigawa drove him home.

“Can you imagine any employer going this distance with you and for you?” the Friendship House spokesperson said.

“In today’s world, it seems inconceivable that such a perfect working partnership exists,” the spokesperson added.

“Bumper stickers exhort individuals to perform random acts of kindness, but these deliberate acts of overwhelming kindness are purposefully directed towards a particular fellow human being in need,” the Friendship House spokesperson said.

“This valiant, unhesitating response came from an understated, unsung hero,” Kobashigawa, Friendship House leaders said.

Officials at the White House were initially contacted by Jack Yatsko of the ICCD. Leaders of ICCD are with the coordinating organization for some 400 club-houses located in 30 countries.

They viewed what Kobashigawa did as an extraordinary example of employer support, and contacted officials at the White House to request a Presidential Citation be made and given to Kobashigawa.

Officials at the White House agreed, and Kobayashi recently received a personally-inscripted photo that was signed by President Bush, commemorating him on his efforts.

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