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Jill Holley: Embracing community

By Staff | Jun 14, 2012

Jill Holley displays the fundraising poster for last year’s fireworks.

LAHAINA – When Tennessee-born Jill Holley – among the town’s newest movers and shakers – graduated from college with a master’s degree in communications, she did what many a pretty, shapely young woman who wanted to travel the world did. She became a stewardess (flight attendant) for the now defunct Braniff Airlines.

In days when airlines placed a premium on beauty, Jill literally weighed in on a scale before each flight. If the weight exceeded the standard, she was grounded. “And I once was,” she noted.

Holley was lured in 2007 to Lahaina after seven years with Braniff, six with Carnival Cruise Lines and seven with a Lake Tahoe casino.

As marketing manager for Hard Rock Cafe, she brought in top musical groups, exceeded her annual goals and accelerated the restaurant’s contributions to the community. The ability to work on philanthropical things was “a joy,” she said.

Though her job ended, and she has been looking for work for nine months, she has continued to play a leading role alongside new Executive Director Lynn Donovan getting LahainaTown Action Committee (LAC) back on track. She volunteers four full days a week.

As a member of the Maui Chamber of Commerce’s West Side Committee and chair in 2011, Holley took the lead and became the most prolific fundraiser for Lahaina’s Fourth of July fireworks celebration. She is hunting for contributions from businesses again this year.

Joining the board of the LAC after encouragement by others, she wrote the plan that helped gain county approval of Halloween on Front Street in 2011.

She became among the first of a committed group of new board members, including a number of merchants, to join founder Joan McKelvey’s efforts to rescue LAC from debt.

Now, LAC has retired almost all the debt and is being rejuvenated, according to Holley.

“We’re finally back, healthy and moving forward,” she said.

Holley stressed that LAC wants to work cooperatively with other organizations for the betterment of Lahaina.

The group’s key programs include having kupuna greet cruise ship passengers with songs and leis (it pays the seniors a fixed fee) and supporting Halloween, the Holiday Lighting of the Banyan Tree and other events. Donovan serves on Second Friday’s steering committee.

LAC has not been without its critics in recent years. The latest flap is the group’s participation in Second Friday, including allowing non-profits at Campbell Park to sell food donated by restaurants. LAC considers this “a win-win” for all.

In response, LAC has scaled back its music and lowered the volume. It is also considering dropping the nonprofit food concessions, so town party guests are encouraged to dine at restaurants.

While Holley soldiers on as a volunteer, she has still not found a suitable Maui job.

She has no family here, but considers our community her family. “This is where I want to stay,” Holley said.

She even turned down a job as a prestigious Colorado resort because she loves Lahaina.

Yet the clock is clicking… stay or go. Leaving would be a loss for Lahaina. But unless someone offers the smart, savvy, well-credentialed Jill a suitable job, this would be a loss for Lahaina. Some smart outfit here would do well to give her a serious look.

(Follow my daily photo blog at voicesofmaui.wordpress.com.)