NUMILA — State Rep. Jimmy Tokioka praised Angenette Molina, known among co-workers and the community as Angie, last week.
“I know Angie because my son Pono is deaf,” Tokioka said. “We got to know her because she was a big help to Pono. She taught us how to sign ‘applause.’”
He encouraged the small gathering at the Kauai Coffee main conference room to sign applause Wednesday when Molina was named the top Vocational Rehabilitant of the Year by the state Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. Kauai Coffee Company was named the Employer of the Year.
Molina, an advocate for deaf issues statewide and a personification of deaf pride, is the chairperson of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Advocacy Board. She was the first Miss Deaf Hawaii in 1983, the year she graduated from Kauai High School. She continues to provided support for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and need access to services. She was a member of the Hawaii Sprint Relay Committee from 2004 to 2012, and helped found the Kauai Deaf Club, which was active from 1995 to 2006.
After returning to Kauai after several years on Guam, Molina taught ASL through the state Department of Education Adult Education Program, and currently, through Kauai Community College. She volunteered, then was hired as an independent living specialist with the Hawaii Centers for Independent Living until the organization closed in 2013.
Brier said the DVR supported Molina in completing her associate’s degree at KCC in 2016.
“She not only received services from DVR, but provided them as well,” said Laurel Brier, Molina’s DVR counselor. “She provided service as an instructor teaching communication through the Comprehensive Services Center. She is now an independent contractor, providing these services as needed to DVR clients.”
With ASL classes and DVR referrals being sporadic, Molina, decided to accept part-time work this year at the Kauai Coffee Company. She works in the production department to prepare and package shipments with a team of other women.
“She is described as an ideal employee, friend and support to all,” Brier said. “An individual who exemplifies the aloha spirit.”
Debi Thompson, a DVR counselor, said Kauai Coffee e-commerce sales manager Faith Soto and her team, including e-commerce supervisor Tanelle Martin and assistant Kimberly Matthews, were key to helping Molina fit into the Kalaheo business.
“Faith believes that every person should be given the same opportunities to enjoy the privileges and responsibilities that come with competitive employment,” Thompson said. “Over the years, Kauai Coffee has remained supportive of persons with disabilities, and have partnered with the Division of Vocational Recreation to utilize on-the-job training program in a variety of positions such as orchard workers, factory workers, coffee station and cafe counter workers.”
Kauai Coffee has hired DVR clients with a variety of impairments, including those who have specific learning disabilities, orthopedic impairments, mental illnesses and deafness.
“They have gone above and beyond to accommodate bus schedules, doctor appointments, and have been open to job carving when necessary,” Thompson said. “Every worker is held to the same high standards and expectations, and earns their place in the company. For these reasons, and more, DVR is proud to recognize Kauai Coffee as our 2018 Employer of the Year!”
Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, can be reached at 245-0453 or email@example.com.