KKCC Presents Pūalu ‘Working Together’ Awards

July 14, 2017, 9:36 AM HST
* Updated July 14, 9:48 AM
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The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce honored seven businesses, individuals and nonprofits with Pūalu Awards at a ceremony at the recent KKCC annual Installation Banquet and Membership Luncheon at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce established the Pūalu Awards in 1979 to honor outstanding individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations in West Hawai‘i for their dedication and hard work in the community. The awards celebrate those who “work together.”

“This year’s winners have demonstrated the spirit of pūalu by working to ensure West Hawai‘i continues to be a community we are proud to call home,” notes KKCC Executive Director Wendy Laros. “Winners were chosen by KKCC’s Pūalu Awards committee from nominations received by Chamber members and the general public.”

The following winners, one in each of seven categories, were recognized:

The Business Innovation Award recognizes a business or organization that exhibits creative product development, marketing, or customer service while enhancing the lives of employees. This year’s award went to Dr. Gerald Cysewski of Cyanotech.


Through insight, dedication and innovation, Dr. Cysewski took an operation at the microscale and turned it into a 90-acre compound at the Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park administered by the Natural Energy Lab of Hawaii Authority. Dr. Cysewski is a world leader in developing innovative technology in producing microalgae and nutraceuticals while developing a well-respected business model that encourages others to learn, grow and try new ideas.


The Community Education Award honors an individual or organization that promotes and supports education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning. Hospice of Kona received this year’s award.

Hospice of Kona offers education programs enabling others to learn more about coping with death. From Hospice’s insightful “Death Over Dinner” events to the joy and compassion they bring to Camp Erin for children who have lost a parent or caregiver, to Kokua Canine pet therapy sessions, this organization has been at the forefront of community education on death and dying since 1985. In addition, Hospice nurses educate both clients and caregivers about the course of care and provide training on medical equipment for home use to help ease that burden.

The Culture & Heritage Award is presented to an individual or organization that has exhibited, through its actions, practices that promote island traditions and preserve our multi-cultural heritage. This year’s recipient is the Office of Maunakea Management (OMKM).


The awardee’s Long-Term Historic Monitoring Plan provides action steps to monitor, protect and preserve more than 200 historic features. These sites are always under threat, through unintended human impact, invasive species, weather and the ravages of time. Plus, there are deeply felt cultural, scientific and emotional ties to these sites from a diverse spectrum of community members. Under the guidance of Kahu Ku Mauna, the volunteer Native Hawaiian advisory council, OMKM hopes to achieve a balance between honoring cultural practices and preserving these historic treasures for future generations.

The Environmental Awareness Award recognizes an individual or organization that exhibits sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices. This year’s award winner is the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.

The initiative started with a group of volunteers who obtained a lease on a neglected 275-acre parcel with the hope of trying to restore Hawai‘i’s dry land native forest. They have since been returning five acres per year into a sanctuary offering native species protection from predators while offering a place to thrive. Through their efforts, they have encouraged school children, neighborhood gardeners, visitors, and members of the business community to learn about, use and showcase these important plants. Key community efforts included the WiliWili Festival and the Future Foresters of Waikoloa.

The Visitor Industry Marketing Award is presented each year to that person or group who diligently works to promote the visitor industry in West Hawai‘i. This year’s accolade went to Hawaii Forest and Trail and Kohala Zipline, an eco-tourism leader for nearly 25 years.

Not only do this company’s guides and staff understand the value in what they share with visitors, they also know the importance of the journalist’s time and how to deeply connect an individual to place. Their marketing efforts have paid dividends, as they’ve been featured on the Travel Channel, MSNBC and the Today Show—as well as in the pages of USA Today, the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler and Wall Street Journal,  just to name a few.

Founder Rob and Cindy Pacheco literally walk the walk: whether it’s carrying Google’s Trekker through 45 miles of scenic trails, to serving on the state’s Board of Land and Natural Resources, to going on visitor bureau press trips, they are always looking for ways to expand outreach to new media in new markets.

The Lifetime Service Award taps an individual who has made a lifelong commitment to the community exemplified by their personal and/or business achievements and this year honors Ron Aronson.

Since arriving in Hawai‘i in 1970, Aronson has graciously shared his passion and leadership skills for nearly five decades. Among his many positions, he was a charter member of the Kona Toastmasters and served as their first president. He was the vice president of the Kanahahou Hawaiian Foundation. He was the president of the Kona Board of Realtors and served as the state association’s vice president. He chaired the Hawaii Board of Realtors State Education Convention for 10 years, bringing the event to Kona three times. He’s served on the Kailua Village Design Commission and in various leadership roles with KKCC, including three times as board chair. He was a coach and referee for West Hawaii Youth Soccer. He has served on the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo’s Advisory Board and helped to bring the UH and Charles Schwab together to lay the groundwork for Hawai‘i Community College–Palamanui.

This year’s Chamber Member of the Year is Pam Latinis. The Oʻahu native volunteers with KKCC in many capacities. Latinis is the chair of the chamber’s golf tournament and a regular at monthly AfterHours events, often taking photos as a long-time marketing committee member. She has also served multiple terms as a KKCC Board of Director and is currently South Kona Vice Chair. In her professional life, Latinis serves as a MacArthur Sotheby’s International Realty Broker in charge of the Kailua-Kona office. Latinis brings the same integrity, passion and energy of her professional life to her volunteer service for the community.

Kona–Kohala Chamber of Commerce logo.

THE KONA-KOHALA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE provides leadership and advocacy for a successful business environment in West Hawai‘i. The result of KKCC’s work is a community of choice as reflected in our quality of life, business and individual opportunity and manifest respect for our culture and our natural resources. For information, 329-1758 or visit

Dr. Gerald Cysewski of Cyanotech received the Chamber’s Pūalu Business Innovation Award. Pictured from left are Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair; Cysewski; and Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair. Courtesy photo.

Office of Mauna Kea Management received the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Pūalu Culture & Heritage Award. Pictured from left are Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair; Lukela Ruddle, Stephanie Nagata and Wally Ishibashi of OMKM; and Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair. Courtesy photo.

Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative received the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Pūalu Environmental Awareness Award. Pictured from left are Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair; recipients Jen Lawson and Beverley Brand; and Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair. Courtesy photo.

Hospice of Kona received the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Pūalu Community Education Award. Pictured from left are Wendy Laros, KKCC executive director; Laura Varney of Hospice of Kona; Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair; and Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair. Courtesy photo.

Congratulating Pam Latinis as the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Member of the Year are Mathew Grauso, KKCC Chair, and Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair. Courtesy photo.

Hawaii Forest & Trail/Kohala Zipline received the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Pūalu Visitor Industry Marketing Award. Pictured from left are Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair; recipients Cindy Pacheco and Jason Cohn of Hawaii Forest & Trail; and Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair. Courtesy photo.

Winning the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce’s Pūalu Lifetime Achievement Award is Ron Aronson. He displays his plaque with (from left) Wendy Laros, KKCC executive director; Mathew Grauso, KKCC chair; and Stephanie Donoho, awards committee chair. Courtesy photo.

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