Ching, Kaulukukui, Thomas honored by YWCA

NUKOLI‘I — Gov. Neil Abercrombie joined YWCA leaders and local dignitaries in honoring three of Kaua‘i’s leaders — Ellen Ching, Gina Kaulukukui and Carla Thomas — during Na Wahine Alaka‘i O Kaua‘i — Women Leaders of Kaua‘i — 2012 Award Luncheon Program at Kaua‘i Beach Resort Thursday.

The event also served as a kickoff for the YWCA “Empowering Our Future” $1 million capital campaign to help with the vision of a future women’s center in Lihu‘e.

“The three outstanding women who are being honored have each made lasting contributions to Kaua‘i’s community and continue in their dedication to serving our island’s residents and visitors,” said Renae Hamilton, YWCA executive director, and Angela Anderson, YWCA board president, in a message from the program. “These women are inspiring examples of sharing the essence of the Aloha Spirit by their service to some of the most vulnerable in the community.”

Ching, currently with the Easter Seals of Hawai‘i’s Kaua‘i chapter, has been described as being a “fierce advocate” for close to 30 years for all people to have the same opportunities for a high quality of life regardless of any disability or challenge.

“Because my work is about the well-being of the entire community, it is made much easier when there are nonprofit leaders who perform their kuleana with excellence,” said Kaua‘i County Council Vice Chair JoAnn Yukimura in her description of Ching. “It gives me great relief and assurance to know there is a person like her who is competent and caring and focused on building a system of support for those who are challenged.”

Kaulukukui has literally given up many hours of sleep to support  families, individuals and even communities that face the tragedy of a sudden loss of life.

“One of the hardest things in life is notifying family members that a loved one has passed away and the emotional aftermath which follows that tragedy,” said Sue Kanoho, director of the Kaua‘i Visitors Bureau and a YWCA honoree in 2011. “Kaua‘i is fortunate to have a person that has been at the forefront for those very challenging moments time and time again for our residents and visitors.”

Kaulukukui, arriving in Hawai‘i when she was 5 years old following the suicide of her father, knows the value of meaningful support and has dedicated her life to providing comprehensive, compassionate bereavement care to Kaua‘i’s community and visitors.

She also is a full-time member of the Kaua‘i Police Department as the domestic violence interventions coordinator, the liaison for domestic violence victims between law enforcement, prosecution, judiciary, the YWCA and other agencies.

Thomas, the director of human resources at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, spends her free time serving on a number of trust boards and perpetuating the Native Hawaiian culture while helping many nonprofit groups in the community by working with Kaua‘i United Way.

“She is a true community leader, giving endlessly of her time,” said Doug Sears, the general manager at the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i and the KUW campaign co-chair. “While she often volunteers with organizations such as Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity and the Waipa Foundation, she is also involved in our corporate community giving program. Many of her volunteer projects are not at the user end of the spectrum, where her actions might be helping a few people. Instead, she works at higher organizational levels, behind the scenes, bringing about change and assistance for many.”

Kaua‘i is very fortunate to have this diverse trip of caring and compassionate women as part of our island ‘ohana, Hamilton and Anderson said.

The YWCA draws together members who strive to create opportunities for women’s growth, leadership and power in order to attain a common vision: peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all people.

The YWCA of Kaua‘i offers programs aimed to prevent domestic violence, provide shelter for victims of domestic abuse, provide treatment for victims of sexual assault, provide counseling to sexual offenders and create youth programs designed specifically to address the current needs of Kaua‘i’s youth.

The YWCA of Kaua‘i was founded in 1928 on Kaua‘i and was incorporated in the State of Hawai‘i in 1964. Visit www.ywcakauai.org or call 245-5959 for more information.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.

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