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For Liz May, community service is ‘in her DNA’

By Staff | Oct 11, 2012


HONOKOWAI – 5A Rent A Space in Honokowai is a hot bed of community service.

Green-minded, its modus operandi is “giving back.”

Liz May is at the helm of the self-storage facility co-owned by James Knuppe and his son, Michael, of California.

The Knuppe family operates three storage facilities: two in the San Francisco Bay Area and one on Maui.

In an e-mail interview, Michael responded to questions from the Lahaina News.

“5A is now into the third generation of this family operating business (1958); and, as such, we take pride in the responsibility of our community commitments very seriously, and we do so with great joy in our hearts,” he said.

May confirmed their business philosophy. She’s been with 5A in one location or another for over 29 years.

“Part of being in management in 5A is that you’re involved in the community. That’s written in the handbook; it’s written in the manual that you will become active in the community,” she said.

With a five-star review, May is taking a leading role.

Her employers speak highly of her character.

“Helping people and caring is in Liz May’s DNA. She does this naturally and without expectation of some sort of pay back Liz is the real deal,” Knuppe affirmed.

May transferred to West Maui with her husband, Phillip, three years ago and jumped right in headfirst.

Now, she is the president of the Lahaina Rotary Club, and organizations like Women Helping Women (WHW), Maui Food Bank and Lahaina Public Library have benefited from her leadership.

For WHW, May noted, “We collect items that are donated from residents on this side of the island.

“We also work with a lot of the realtors on this side. Houses are sold,” May explained, “people sell their homes fully furnished. The new owner wants to come in and do a remodel, and he doesn’t want the furniture. So we accept those donations.

“Those donations then are collected here at the site. We store them until someone from Women Helping Women (WHW) comes in to remove them,” she added.

The furniture, household goods, clothing, bedding and other donations are sold at the WHW reVive resale boutique in Kahului.

“It’s a great partnership,” she commented.

According to May, the Maui Food Bank is easy to help.

“We just have a place where people can donate food. When that bin gets full, we call them, and they come pick it up… about once every two months,” she said.

“Sometimes during the seasons, it gets a little more full, but it’s nice. A lot of the people that have timeshare that come here year after year that have food that’s just left over, but it’s still good, they donate it, because they know that it’s going to a good cause.”

Contributions from May and 5A to the Lahaina Library restoration project have been monumental.

“We’re storing the books; we transported them here. We picked up the boxes that were donated and stored at the Friends of the Library off of Puunene,” she said.

“A gentleman had collected 750 boxes that the books were all stored in.”

5A’s bar code service came in very handy for the efficient transfer of the books.

“We took each box, and we bar coded them. They’re scanned in, and now we have an inventory of what’s in every box,” May said.

“It has been a major undertaking,” she added. May is quick to share the credit with all the contractors helping with the restoration, Maui Friends of the Library and Sara Foley and Norm Bezane. “They were just amazing. They are incredible,” she commented.

Recycling is important to May.

She is developing an alliance with Hana Steele, coordinator of the Recycle Maui County program, “to establish an e-cycling place on the West Side.”

“There’s a big demand for people that need stuff to be recycled – their computers, their phones. We have accepted those, and then we take it over to the e-cycling place on the other side, so that they are not left on the streets or just thrown away in black bags in the landfill,” she remarked.

Green energy at 5A is not just a conversation.

“Less than a year ago, we installed 1,934 rooftop solar panels,” May said.

It’s the largest commercial photovoltaic power generation system on the island, with a generating capacity of almost 3,000 kilowatt hours of clean, renewable energy daily – enough to power over 200 homes.

“We live on an island; it makes good sense. We want to be good stewards of the aina,” she said.

Additionally, at the 5A adjoining retail center (3600 Lower Honoapiilani Road), an electrical car recharging station is available.

Community leader Joe Pluta remarked, “Liz May is one of the finest examples of community-minded, business leadership I know. She is a both a credit to her employer and the community simultaneously. It’s been a real pleasure working with her.”

Nancy Montoya, fellow Rotarian and past president, considers May a good role model.

“Liz is a likable, positive and passionate person. She cares for people and shows it in her actions,” Montoya said.

“I think of it as serving the community in the best way that you can,” May commented.

Her employer, Michael Knuppe, is her staunchest advocate.

“Liz has followed the 5A philosophy of ‘giving back’ since her first day on the job and will continue to do so far into the future. We are proud to announce that she and her husband, Phil, will finally be purchasing their first home on the island in the very near future; so West Maui will have her steadfast commitment to community-minded affairs for many years to come,” he concluded.