The heart of a (kokua) champion
by Sharon Higa | Feb. 19, 2020
At Hawaiian Electric, our employees welcome opportunities to give back to their communities. Recently, six employees were recipients of the Kokua Community Champion Service Award honoring the individuals for “exemplary volunteer service in the community over the past year.”
From a busy mom of four children to an engineer with more than 30 years of volunteer service, our Kokua Champions inspire us with their selfless contributions to make our communities stronger.
Mikey Burke, of Lahaina, has four young children including 4-year-old twins, and champions the use of Hawaiian language. She helps lead an annual event for Na Leo Kalele to raise funds for three Hawaiian language immersion schools in West Maui and takes on volunteer responsibilities for Punana Leo o Lahaina to support its continued success as a Hawaiian language immersion preschool.
“It is an extraordinary accomplishment to be able to offer generous volunteer hours while committed to the responsibilities of family and work,” said Mahina Martin, director of government & community affairs with Hawaiian Electric’s Maui County utility. “Mikey exemplifies the spirit of aloha and kokua,” she added.
Hilo native Dave Okamura is a leader for life, a role he takes on as key organizer of company volunteers for the annual Relay for Life East Hawaii, and as an assistant scoutmaster for the Hilo Hongwanji Boy Scout Troop. Under Dave and his engineering team, the Hawaii Island utility has been well represented at the Relay for Life with the highest volunteer turnouts annually. For many years, Dave also has been helping boy scouts grow into responsible leaders and teammates. “Dave’s commitment and good work ethic serve as a good role model for these young scouts,” said Sharon Suzuki, president of Maui County and Hawaii Island utilities.
Hawaiian Electric’s Sean Moura is a Kauai native who is a champion for the environment and wildlife. In his element outdoors, Sean has organized stream cleanups, workdays to protect native species habitat, and native tree plantings. And that was just last year. “Sean continues to graciously volunteer his time with our nonprofit organization Kauluakalana and provides insight into better management of our natural resources,” said Kaleo Wong, program director. “He is one of the kindest people I know, seems to know how to do everything, and handsomely offers to help us and anyone in any way possible.”
Mehana Hoopii lives in Honolulu and volunteers all across Oahu for projects she is personally connected to or simply to support a good cause. Last year, Mehana led a group of volunteers to start construction on a Habitat for Humanity home in Waimanalo and brought volunteers to help with the Parade of Farms in Waianae, a project she had led the previous year in Waimanalo to support the ag industry. When not helping coach the Kaimuki High Varsity/JV paddling team, Mehana can be found supporting fellow employee community service projects. “Mehana has always been positive, upbeat, and passionate about volunteering,” said Christy Tomas, Hawaiian Electric senior community affairs consultant. “She is without doubt a shining example of what it means to be a model corporate citizen!”
Mililani resident Edmund Chang is our veteran volunteer with more than 30 years of promoting math and engineering to students through his work with MATHCOUNTS® — a middle school mathematics competition — and the Francis R. Montgomery Design Competition, which furthers the field of mechanical engineering while honoring the memory of the late Hawaiian Electric engineer.
For MATHCOUNTS, Ed organizes company volunteers to serve as proctors, scorers and judges; takes photographs; writes the results like a sports reporter; and makes sure the students and volunteers have refreshments. “For many years, Ed has been working quietly behind the scenes, so it’s nice to see him receive recognition for his efforts,” said Rosella Motoki, fellow MATHCOUNTS volunteer and Hawaiian Electric energy contract manager. “Ed is like pedals on a bike. You can still ride the bike without pedals, but it runs more effectively with them. Ed keeps MATHCOUNTS moving along, and without him, these events wouldn’t run so smoothly.”
Ray Higa lives and works in West Oahu, and is a champion for his Nanakuli community. As chair of the Boys & Girls Club (BGCH) of Hawaii Nanakuli NFL YET Center, Ray works tirelessly for the nonprofit that provides a safe place for youth to find opportunity and reach their full potential as responsible citizens. “Ray’s servanthood to his community exemplifies the great things that can happen in our community,” said Claudia “Lala” Fernandez, BGCH director of operations. “He is a person that wants to help and see change and is moved by impact to see a greater purpose and good taking place in the community. He is a true champion for his community, to our organization, his work, and his family. Always giving, serving, and showing aloha at every level, but so humble and genuine in his actions.”
What is the heart of a kokua champion? ALOHA.
Sharon Higa is a senior communications consultant at Hawaiian Electric Company.