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United Way changing lives

POIPU — Laura Miyashiro of Friendship House in Kapaa helped the Kauai United Way launch its 2015 Campaign at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Thursday.

“I have been through so many experiences in my life,” Miyashiro said. “Being diagnosed with a mental illness, battling breast cancer, and now, learning to deal with losing my sight. These may not be what you might refer to as rich experiences, but they are experiences which have shaped my life tremendously.”

Miyashiro spoke of the impact services from Kauai United Way have had in her life, and the reasons people should support the group and its umbrella of 29 agencies that take care of Kauai and its people.

“People have asked me, ‘How do you do it?’” Miyashiro said. “‘How do you keep such a positive attitude with everything you’ve been through?’ My feeling is ‘What choice do I have?’ The alternative is pretty bleak so I keep on keeping on.”

Scott Giarman, who is celebrating his 20th anniversary as the group’s executive director, said the goal of the 2015 campaign is $700,000. That’s the same as last year’s goal, which fell short by about 10 percent.

Ron Wiley and Mark Stein, co-chairs of the 2015 campaign, said there are several ways of giving to the Kauai United Way, mainly through payroll deduction, the newly initiated Mau Paepae, or “continued giving,” which can be initiated through the Kauai United Way website, and the Leadership Club.

Jocelyn Glovasa and Marilyn Solatre, representing Pono Kai, listened to the unfolding story.

“Wow,” Solatre said. “Last year, we made our goal. This year, I guess we’ll have to do a garage sale in the parking lot and sell some of the blankets and furniture.”

Robert Westerman, president of the KUW board, pointed out that the Kauai United Way has been taking care of the island for the past 72 years.

The end result can be seen in the lives of people like Miyashiro.

“My pursuit of happiness is to be able to do things — meaningful things,” Miyashiro said. “Meaningful work makes me happy, and the clubhouse is full of meaningful work like washing dishes, gardening, writing articles for the newsletter and doing presentations.”

Giarman said this is the kind of work Kauai United Way does.

“This has been a wonderful experience,” Giarman said. “Spectacular. That is what Kauai United Way does — lives are changed, and saved by the Kauai United Way. Kauai is such a small island and the people are close-knit, which means when I succeed, or fail, it affects others.”

Miyashiro said without the support of the Kauai United Way, her experiences would not be possible.

“I have the clubhouse,” Miyashiro said. “Through all of this, Friendship House (one of the KUW participating agencies) and the members and staff that work there have been my inspiration. They show me that things can be done. We set a goal, like getting rid of stigma, and we work towards getting it done. Then, we do it!”

But support from the community is key.

“When you give, know that your dollar is worth so much more than just that one dollar,” Miyashiro said. “Kauai United Way makes that dollar work wonders. Thank you, Kauai United Way, for helping to make our life experiences more beautiful. Friendship House would not have been able to help me advance to where I am today. Thank you.”

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