Awards Tap Six for Commitment to Community

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The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) Pualu Awards recognize individuals, businesses and/or nonprofit organizations that exemplify a commitment to the improvement and advancement of our community. Winners, one in each of six categories, were recognized at the recent KKCC annual Installation Banquet and Membership Luncheon at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

“We appreciate everyone who submitted Pualu Award nominations, and I hope these stories of our awardees inspire you to continue to make our community a great place to live, work, and do business,” said Wendy Laros, KKCC executive director.

This years awardees have demonstrated excellence, creativity and leadership in the following categories: Business Innovation, Community Education, Culture & Heritage, Environmental Awareness, Visitor Industry Marketing and Chamber Member of the Year.

2018 PUALU AWARD WINNERS: Pictured from left to right are Tom Greenwell, Elizabeth Elkjer, Virginia Aragon-Barnes, Tina Clothier, Sandra Dawson, Dr. Momi Naughton, Phoebe Barela, Karen Rose and Rachelle Hennings. Courtesy photo.

The Business Innovation Award recognizes a business or organization that exhibitits creative product development, marketing and customer service while enhancing the lives of its employees. This years recipient is Tom Greenwell and Greenwell Farms. The 1850 company has had to constantly innovate through four generations of family members. Greenwell Farms employs creative agricultural water management, offers on-site housing for seasonal workers and shares progressive pruning, cupping and growing techniques with industry peers.

The Community Education Award honors an indivdual or organization that promotes and supports education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning. Sandra Dawson and the Thirty Meter Telecope is tapped with this award. In 2014, TMT established the Hawai‘i Island New Knowledge of THINK Fund to prepare island youth for the 21st century, high-tech workforce. With a $1 million-a-year philanthropic commitment—$4 million to date—TMT partners with others to better prepare students to master STEM courses (science, technology, engineering and math). The THINK Fund has helped over 17,000 Hawaiʻi Island students and 900 teachers while providing 54 college scholarships.

The Culture & Heritage Award is presented to an individual or organization that exhibits the promotion of island traditions and preservation of our multi-cultural heritage. This years recipient is Dr. Momi Naughton, who demonstrated a depth of knowledge about Hāmākua and North Hawaiʻi communities and truly demonstrates a love of the culture, people and land. Through her efforts to preserve verbal accounts, photographs and artifacts, and package them through events and talk story sessions, she has made North Hawaii Education and Research Center’s (NHERC) Heritage Center a gathering place for the community, native Hawaiian educators and students, and celebrated the immigration history of plantation workers. In addition, her historically rich work cultivates civic pride and contributes as an economic catalyst for Honoka‘a.  

The Environmental Award recognizes an individual or organization that exhibits sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices. This years award goes to Tina Clothier and PATH (Peopleʻs Advocacy for Trails Hawai‘i). Over the last 30 years, PATH has shown a commitment to encourage people to get out of cars and enjoy the island by foot or bike. PATH launched the Kona Bikeshare program in Kailua Village, which reduces our fossil fuel dependency, and focuses on bike safety and education for children.

The Visitor Industry Marketing Award is presented each year to a person or group who diligently works to promote the visitor industry in West Hawai‘i. This years recipient is Phoebe Barela, Karen Rose and VASH Hawai‘i Island. VASH provides services and support to visitors who are adversely affected by unexpected events, such as crime or a serious medical issue. A recent visitor who experienced a mishap relied on the services of VASHs Phoebe Barela over several days and wrote a glowing review of VASH’s efforts, illustrating all it does to help visitors in need.  Due to VASH and its team of volunteers and professionals, visitors experience the aloha spirit in difficult times and take back their experience to their communities.

 This yearʻs Chamber Member of the Year Award goes to Elizabeth Elkjer of Sustainable Island Products. An active KKCC member, Elkjers passion for environmental stewardship and push for positive change sets her apart. As chair of the Chambers Sustainability Committee, she relaunched KKCCs Kuleana Green Business program and refreshed the program’s application. Her efforts have doubled the number of Kuleana business in one year. Elkjer helps the Chamber develop environmental priorities, including the recent Chamber proposal sent to the 2018 state legislative to ban the sale of sunscreen products with oxybenzone.

 Congratulations to all the 2018 KKCC Pualu Award recipients!


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