Ten Maui residents were recently nominated as Outstanding Older Americans by the Maui County Office on Aging. Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize elder citizens for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active.
Maui’s 46th Annual Outstanding Older American Awards ceremony will be held May 6 at the Maui Beach Hotel’s Elleair Ballroom. In addition to honoring the seniors, Mayor Alan Arakawa will proclaim May as “Older Americans Month” at the awards luncheon.
This year’s nominees are Louise Corpuz, Penny Dearborn, Sally Gospodarek, Barbara Kennedy, Kathleen Ordonez, Patsy Ponce, Tom Leuteneker, Fred Ruge, John Tryggestad and Kanee Wright.
Seventy-year-old Corpuz is an Upcountry resident that drives frail seniors to medical visits as far away as Lahaina. She is involved in the Senior Medicare Patrol, spearheads St. John Episcopal Church’s Adopt-A-Highway program, and works to bolster food supplies for the Maui Food Bank.
Sixty-seven-year-old Dearborn is the co-founder of the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation’s no-kill shelter and works to actively seek new homes for homeless dogs and puppies. She is credited with finding homes for 1,600 dogs and six horses since 2011. She also supervises students who volunteer at the shelter.
Gospodarek is a 73-year-old who worked for six years a 24-hour-a-day family caregiver. She subsequently volunteered as an assisted transportation driver for Kaunoa, transporting elders for medical appointments, shopping and errands.
Kennedy, 75, volunteers to drive seniors to cancer treatments, medical appointment and to retrieve groceries and medications. In her four years of service to Nā Hoaloha, she has driven over 6,235 miles for clients.
Sixty-seven-year-old Kahului resident Ordonez has worked full-time as a radiology technician at the Maui Medical Group for the past 44 years. Her granddaughter Rhianna nominated her to receive the Outstanding Older American award for her selfless care-giving of her father from the moment he fell ill and needed assistance in 2006 until he passed away eight years later at Hale Makua.
Ponce is a 79-year-old who works with Senior Companion program clients. She helps elders live with dignity as they decline in mental capacity and physical ability. When her clients are placed in a nursing home, she continues to visit them throughout their lives.
Leuteneker, 73, heads up many non-profit boards, from Children’s Advocacy/Justice Center, to the Rotary Club of Wailuku. He was instrumental in the building of the Haiku Playground, and is helping his faith organization build a new church in Wailuku.
Eighty-four-year-old Ruge is devoted to helping veterans of Maui through his leadership, fundraising, transportation to appointments and guidance through the challenging path to VA benefits. He is a Korean War Combat Vet, he has lobbied to expand Makawao Veterans Cemetery and he has helped to create jobs for returning Afghan vets. He also volunteers as a Salvation Army holiday bell ringer.
Tryggestad is described as “your not-so-basic 67-year-old environmentalist.” He is dedicated to cleaning South Maui beaches through Hoaloha ‘Āina, banding Hawaiian Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters through the Maui Nui Seabird Project. He recycles books though his affiliation with The Friends of the Maui Library and provides transportation to seniors in need. He also helped set up the Friends of the Library’s Pu‘unene warehouse and stores in Lahaina and at Queen Kaahumanu Center.
Wright is an 83-year-old volunteer at Hale Maha‘olu’s Home Pumehana site in Kaunakakai, Molokai. She keeps busy by cleaning Home Pumehana’s windows, screens, tables and chairs, as well as running errands for the kitchen, office and maintenance shop, and delivering parcels when she is not on the road delivering nutritious meals to the Friendly Isle’s frail, home-bound seniors.
Judges for this year’s awards include Audrey Rocha Reed, Director of Heritage Hall; Ronna Patty, PHN; Cesar Gaxiola, Executive Director of the Cameron Center; Scott Seto, Executive Director of Adult and Community Care branch of the Department of Human Services; and Sandy Freeman, Executive Director, Maui Adult Day Care Centers.
The theme of this year’s Older Americans Month is “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow,” which highlights injury prevention. With a focus on safety during Older Americans Month, the Administration for Community Living plans to use this opportunity to raise awareness about unintentional injuries, which results in millions of medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year. By taking control of their safety, older Americans can live longer, healthier lives.
The public is invited to attend the Outstanding Older American Awards ceremony; cost for the luncheon is $20 in advance or $25 at the door. For more information on the awards ceremony or to reserve a seat at the luncheon, contact Jan Roberson at 808-270-8221.
Photo: Wikirishiaacharya/Wikimedia Commons