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Volunteering starts chain reaction among Na Hoaloha Ekolu employees

By Staff | Feb 16, 2017

LAHAINA – Michael Moore best described the gift-giving journey of Na Hoaloha Ekolu (Three Friends) in 2016: “We went from our local neighborhood all the way to the world.”

In celebration of their 30th Anniversary, the 400-some employees of the West Side family of businesses – Old Lahaina Luau, Aloha Mixed Plate, Star Noodle, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop and Hoaloha Farms – lived and breathed the theme of the year’s good deeds: “30 Acts of Aloha.”

It was no small feat, but giving back is second skin to this ohana, inspired by the “three friends,” business partners Michael Moore, Tim Moore and Robert Aguiar.

With matching funds contributed by the partners, over $130,000 was donated to ten Maui non-profits and Hawaii Community Foundation.

That was just the icing on the cake. Key ingredients of the milestone year were also comprised of dozens of hands-on, face-to-face public-spirited experiences.

There are too many to name, but a diverse sampling of their benevolence included senior bingo, tree planting in Honokowai, Mala cemetery cleanup, cultural exchange with emissaries from the Blackfeet Nation and the students of the Hawaiian Immersion Program at Princess Nahi’ena’ena Elementary School, restorative work at the Koieie Fishpond in Kihei, delivery of food to New York City shut-ins through New York Cares, re-lashing of the Makali’i voyaging canoe on the Big Island, helping to prep for a fund-raising carnival at the Raphael House in San Francisco and the delivery of books by boat to children in the remote river villages of Laos.

And at the “30 Acts” celebratory employee fete held on the grounds of Old Lahaina Luau on Saturday night, Feb. 4, the top 30 volunteers were recognized.

They were Kamuela Samudio, Kapili Akima, Charen Kepler, Antoinette Palisbo, Ivan Pahk, Nani Potter-Kekiwi, Dillion Magalianes, Kalei Silva, Kawika Freitas, MayLing Barbosa, Audrey Kaneshiro, Niki McCabe, Julie Yoneyama, Konane Pokipala, Lanakila Uahinui, June “Moki” Gushi, Tiara Kukahiko, Robert Lorenzo, Rosie Robbins, Kanani Alboro, Jboi Gacusan, Wainani Wendt, Robyn Poppe, Kerri Aotaki, Kaluna Kaauwai, Nicky Boskoff, Brad de Young, Nichell Kahele, Judee Aki, Ua Bradshaw and James Cacal.

Public service is one of the guiding principles of Na Hoaloha.

Charen Kepler is director of leadership development and community giving.

Their volunteer efforts are employee-driven, she told the Lahaina News.

“We’ve been volunteering from the beginning (1986). The first volunteer project, back in the day, was the King Kamehameha Parade; and, it’s expanded from there. Our school supply and keiki drives are just staples.

“Every year,” the corporate executive observed, “we have done at least 30 acts. So this year, it was like no problem. We doubled that; we did 65 acts. It was crazy. It was amazing. It was a lot of work.”

Robert Lorenzo, general manager of Aloha Mixed Plate, described the act of volunteerism as contagious.

“You would be surprised at how the employees are willing to volunteer. It’s fun; I enjoy it. I always say, ‘You get an employee to at least one project, and they’re going to come back for more. Just one!’ “

Corporate General Manager Judee Mae Aki is on the list of the top 30; she’s been working for Na Hoaloha for 20 years.

She agreed with Lorenzo’s assessment.

“When the employees of this amazing company saw and heard stories of each act, it just started a chain reaction, and soon everyone wanted to give what they could, whether it was a (monetary) donation or their time. But it didn’t stop at our employees. It then spread like a wildfire; and then it became their families and their friends all wanting to do something to help to be a part of something great.”

Nicky Boskoff, the general manager of Star Noodle, is justly pleased.

“I was always quite proud of the work we have done here in Lahaina; but, over the last year, I really heard from friends and family about the impact we have made on their lives or the awareness we have brought to the community about how rewarding and essential community service is.”

Her drive is shared by many at Na Hoaloha.

“Not only would I do it all again in a heartbeat,” she advised. “I would do more.”

“It’s a part of who we are,” Aki added.