POIPU — Laurie Yoshida was sworn in as the first non-Filipino president for the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce Saturday evening during the KFCC Awards and Installation Gala held at the Koloa Landing resort.
“They had my picture on the front page of a newspaper,” Yoshida said. “All of these people were calling my mother, saying ‘Your daughter is on the cover, and she’s not Filipino!’”
Yoshida takes over the reins from Bobby Ayonon, who led the KFCC for the past two years during a re-organization and the acquiring of its 501 (c)(301) nonprofit status.
Ayonon said the chamber was brought to a new level, and pointed to its golf tournament that raised funds for scholarships.
“We contributed $50,000 to the Kauai Philippines Cultural Center, and I hope this function will be held there,” Ayonon said. “We also opened the chamber to younger ideas, and I’m glad to see this function taking place at the Koloa Landing resort.”
The gala, hosted by Bennette Misalucha for more than a hundred people, featured ample time for networking, browsing through vendors, and meeting the new board headed by Yoshida, vice president Vonn Ramos, secretary Evelyn Riley, assistant secretary Rose Ramos Benzel, treasurer Juno Apalla, and assistant treasurer Cyndi Ayonon.
Board directors include Angel Acorda, Kaeo Bradford, Addison Bulosan, Emma Ladendecker, Chuck Lasker, Emily Manuel, Mike Martinez, Cristeta Owan, Tito Villanueva, Maritess Yano, and past KFCC presidents Marynel Valenzuela, Eddie Topenio, Bobby Ayonon. KFCC Executive Director Randy Francisco stood in for Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. to accept a special award.
“These awards are presented to individuals and organizations who made significant contributions to the organization,” said Cyndi Ayonon. “Those efforts have made a significant impact in improving the quality of life on Kauai through their commitment with the KFCC and to the community.”
Carvalho was named the Ambassador of Goodwill for his work for the Filipino community, including setting up three sister city relationships with the Philippines, and securing a fourth sister city in the future when he travels to Davao City.
Janice Bond earned the Member of the Year honors; Apalla earned the Board Member of the Year; Manuel earned Entrepreneur accolades for creating innovative ways of having members interact during the KFCC quarterly meetings; and Acorda and Villanueva shared the Community Service Award for co-chairing the KFCC golf tournament.
Special Kokua awards were handed out to Dupont Pioneer, represented by Ryan Oyama; Hartung Bros., represented by Joshua Uyehara; and Dow Agrosciences, with Yoshida standing in for Stephanie Iona, for financial support over the years.
Jade Butay, the interim director for the state’s Department of Transportation, was the special speaker.
Yoshida said she’s committed to keeping the KFCC strong through training, and advocating for all businesses. Since this is an election year, she is looking toward working with the Kauai Chamber of Commerce on community outreach through political forums and efforts to encourage a stronger voter turnout, she said.