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Maui to remember Jan Dapitan

By Staff | Jan 16, 2020

Jan Dapitan speaks after receiving the Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award at the annual Keep America Beautiful Conference in 2016 in Florida.

The Maui community recently lost one of its biggest environmental heroes in Janet “Jan” Miller Dapitan.

Dapitan, 84, passed away on Dec. 30, 2019 at her home in Wailuku surrounded by her loving family.

Her family will host a celebration of life on Tuesday, Jan. 14, at Wailuku Community Center at 4 p.m. The public is invited to join the family and community to share stories and fond memories about her. Light fare and refreshments will be offered.

Dapitan will be remembered as one of Maui’s most important community leaders in the anti-litter movement.

Coming from a teaching background at Kamehameha Schools, the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Baldwin High School, Dapitan began public service in the Maui County Parks & Recreation Department.

During her time with the county, she developed innovative volunteer programs such as Adopt-a-Park and other environmental awareness efforts.

Then-State Health Department Administrator Les Ihara noticed her work and wisely picked Dapitan as the Maui representative to become a founding board member of the Office of Litter Control’s new initiative, the Community Work Day Program (CWD).

CWD became the administrative center to a growing network of volunteer-run entities across the state working to tackle the litter and blight issues plaguing the islands in the 1980s.

Community Work Day became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a Keep America Beautiful (KAB) affiliate in 1993.

Dapitan became the Hawaii state leader for KAB in 1997, transferring Community Work Day’s headquarters to Maui after the Office of Litter Control closed in 1996.

Dapitan continued to coordinate anti-litter campaigns and provide training support for the growing KAB affiliate network statewide, while also running litter prevention, recycling and beautification projects locally.

She helped establish a culture of volunteerism in Maui County, maintaining a volunteer registry of 5,000 strong, and continued her work through Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful and Community Work Day, now doing business as the environmental nonprofit Malama Maui Nui.

Among Dapitan’s greatest achievements was spearheading the establishment of Hawaii’s Environmental Court – only the second of its kind in the U.S.

While “retired,” Dapitan continued to advise both KHIB and Malama Maui Nui as state leader emeritus.

“In my years in Hawaii, I’ve been blessed to know caring people across this beautiful state who live the Hawaiian values of aloha ‘aina – love of the land, malama ‘aina – take care of the land, and laulima – working together,” Dapitan said, after being recognized with Keep America Beautiful’s prestigious Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award in 2016.

We spoke many times over the years, and her philosophy on litter was simple: you just can’t allow people to tolerate it.

She was an amazing, low-key leader who could rally people from all walks of life to pitch in and help tackle the litter problem on Maui.

Her legacy is a cleaner Maui County today and for the generations to come.