East Hawaii News

Abercrombie Honors Graduates, Swears in Volunteers

October 24, 2013, 5:59 PM HST
* Updated October 25, 4:29 PM
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Gov. Neil Abercrombie made numerous appearances around Hilo today, including at the dedication of a clearing house for services for immigrants.

Hilo’s Immigrant Resource Center is one of four being opened statewide, with two on Oahu and one on Kauai.

Funded through a grant from the Office of Community Services, which operates under the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the centers are designed to connect immigrants with a variety of resources and services.

Immigrant Resources Center Coordinator Linda Spencer, left, and Catholic Charities Hawaii CEO Jerry Rauckhorst speak during today's dedication. Photo by Dave Smith.

Immigrant Resources Center Coordinator Linda Spencer, left, and Catholic Charities Hawaii CEO Jerry Rauckhorst speak during today’s dedication. Photo by Dave Smith.

State officials said the goal is to allow immigrants to “participate fully in the economic, civic, social and cultural life of Hawaii.”

The centers will eliminate barriers that prevent immigrants from becoming self-sufficient and acculturated, said Jerry Rauckhorst, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Hawaii, which will operate the Hilo center located at the corner of Kinoole Street and Waianuenue Avenue.

“This is an effort to really bring immigrant services to the forefront,” Rauckhorst told Big Island Now.

At the beginning of the center’s opening ceremony, various speakers welcomed those present in several languages including Ilocano, Spanish and Ebon, which is spoken in the Marshall Islands.

During his remarks, Abercrombie singled out Office of Community Services executive director Mila Kaahanui for her efforts in creating the centers.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today praised the efforts of Office of Community Services Director Mila Kaahanui, left. Photo by Dave Smith.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie today praised the efforts of Office of Community Services Director Mila Kaahanui, left. Photo by Dave Smith.

“These centers are the result of the dedication and focus of people like Mila,” the governor said.

Speaking after the opening ceremony, state Sen. Gil Kahele described the center as “where the American dream begins.”

“This is really going to help a lot of people,” he said.

One beneficiary of the governor’s immigrant aid was honored at another ceremony held an hour earlier a block up Waianuenue.

Homer Sarmiento was one of 30 students graduating from nursing assistant training at the Sweetwater Health Education’s new offices at the corner of Kapiolani Street.

Sarmiento, who arrived in Hawaii with his parents from the Philippines two years ago, received a $1,000 state grant administered by Goodwill Industries to assist him with tuition.

State officials said there will be eight grant recipients in Sweetwater’s next class of nursing assistant students.

Speaking at the earlier graduation, Abercrombie said such medical training such as that received by Sarmiento is becoming more and more critical as the state’s population ages.

“This person really exemplifies what this accomplishment is all about,” he said.

Sarmiento told Big Island Now that after receiving state certification he hopes to work at Hale Anuenue Restorative Care Center, a long-term care facility in Hilo.

Abercrombie’s last scheduled stop today was at the county’s Aupuni Center where he swore in 23 Big Island residents who have volunteered to serve on various state boards, commissions and other posts.

The list included former county water chief Milton Pavao and University of Hawaii professor Kamanamaikalani “Kamana” Beamer to seats on the Commission on Water Resource Management and Dominador Coloma and Sheldon Lehman to the Civil Defense Advisory Council.

Some were being reappointed to positions, including Brian De Lima to the Board of Education, Fred Holschuh to the Commission on National & Community Service, Barry Mizuno to the UH Board of Regents, Ernest Matsumura to the state Land Use Commission and UH-Hilo Chancellor Donald Straney to the Aerospace Advisory Committee.

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