NAWILIWILI — Maria Acob is a Friendship House member who is working at the Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club laundry department.
She was joined by other Friendship House members and leadership in hosting 16 employers for an evening of mahalo and aloha for their partnership in employing Friendship House members and other community members with disabilities. The 15th annual Employers Awards banquet unfolded at the Kauai Marriott Thursday evening with a theme of “The Power and Dignity of having a job.”
“Maria is presently working in the Kauai Marriott laundry room,” said Dave Jordan, the Friendship House vocational coordinator. “Chuck Brady and Neil McDonald of the Kauai Marriott has employed more than 20 of our members over a 20-year period.”
Joining the Kauai Marriott in being appreciated for their efforts at placing community members with disabilities among their employee ranks, Kala’s Kreations, the Safeway stores at Hokulei Village and Kauai Village, St. Catherine parish, the Olympic Cafe, Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club, the Mental Health Kokua Peer Coach Services, Holo Holo Charters, Mental Health Kokua, Bazil Family Restaurant, FM97 radio, St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church, Shane’s Recyclables, Hanalei Dolphin, and Duke’s Canoe Club received accolades for their aloha and successes.
“In a world where the stigma of having a mental illness can make life more challenging, these employers’ acceptance of members as peope — not as their diagnosis — and their belief in what members are capable of doing make significant impacts on members’ self-esteem which help them develop the confidence to pursue goals in other areas of their lives,” Jordan said.
Friendship House member Keith Oshiro recently secured a position from Lee Ridley, the supervisor at the Waiohai grounds department.
Lesah Merritt, the manager at Safeway, Hokulei Village, just hired Modesto Rabina as a courtesy clerk trainer, and Father Anthony of St. Catherine Parish hired Chad Panui in a position of recycling and washing the church’s vehicles.
“It’s stinky,” said Shane Vegas of Shane’s Recyclables who recently expanded his business to raising chickens. “That’s the hardest part of the job — cleaning the pens. But the best part is collecting the eggs to sell so I have some money.”
Jordan said the Clubhouse Model, designed by people with mental illness as to what they needed to stay well, to stay healthy, and out of hospitals is this idea of The Power and Dignity of having a job — meaningful work and relationships are the heart and soul of the model.
“Meaningful work gives us all a reason to crawl out of our cozy beds each morning and go do something that gives us a sense of purpose in our lives,” Jordan said.
Laura Miyashiro, a Friendship House member, agreed with Jordan.
“Meaningful work has always been a driving force in my life,” Miyashiro, who was diagnosed with mental illness while in high school. eded to be done and it made my dad happy. I liked making him happy. It made me feel, well — priceless.”
Miyashiro said being diagnosed with mental illness causes suffering not only to the one with the disease, but to others around them.
“This can be a tremendous burden and sometimes you feel like life is worthless,” she said. “I didn’t know this when I was diagnosed, but I knew that work made me feel good — being productive, pulling your own weight, and feeling ‘priceless.’”
In 1999, with the help of the state’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation and Friendship House, Miyashiro secured a job as a tagger at Pono Cleaners in Kapaa. The job entailed receiving and inspecting clothing for stains and tears, and tagging them appropriately.
“I held onto the job for six years,” she said. “It made me feel priceless to have such awesome responsibility and to be such an important part of the team.”
Then, Miyashiro was diagnosed with breast cancer. Three years ago, she lost her sight.
“I am trying to become more independent since losing my sight as I hope to one day get another job. In the meantime, I’m still doing meaningful work by helping with the work at the Clubhouse,” she said.