People Who Made A Difference

No shortage of inspiration

The holiday season ushers in a time of giving, hope and joyousness. It is a time to reflect on the bounty we have and on those less fortunate whom we want to share in the joy of the season. Amid the turbulence and conflict across the country and around the world, the mantra “Peace on Earth” ...

Joyce Afalla has worked as a case manager for the Maui branch of the state Department of Human Services’ Benefit, Employment and Support Services Division since 1992, connecting clients to housing, medical, mental health or crisis intervention. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Joyce Afalla

For The Maui News Every now and then, while Joyce Afalla is out running errands, someone will tap her on the shoulder, throw their arms around her and say “thank you.” These encounters are not out of the ordinary, but even so, Afalla is often surprised. “Sometimes it’s a person I ...

Alohalani Eldredge is the co-chair of Keolahou Hawaiian Congregational Church’s food pantry, which is operated by the church in partnership with the Maui Food Bank and other Kihei churches. She and Janice Cohen oversee the program, which distributes more than a week’s worth of meals to homeless and food-insecure individuals and families in South Maui every Friday morning. The volunteer program, founded in 1994 by Keolahou Church congregant Carolyn Nichols, distributes food to nearly 80 South Maui families every week, often more during the holidays. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Keolahou Church food pantry

For The Maui News When Alohalani Eldredge flew to Las Vegas for a family vacation a few weeks ago, she didn’t forget to pack her cellphone charger. As she ate brunch at her hotel on a late Friday morning, she couldn’t help but glance at the screen of her fully charged phone every few ...

Mary Dungans (center), who joined Mana‘olana Pink Paddlers seven years ago, helped build the nonprofit organization that supports cancer survivors and their supporters that began in 2006. She transformed the fledgling organization into a bona fide outrigger canoe club that has helped survivors regain their strength and confidence through paddling. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Mary Dungans

For The Maui News All it took was one cup of coffee. On a bright October morning seven years ago, Mary Dungans was lugging an outrigger canoe ashore at Sugar Beach in north Kihei when she spotted a group of women in matching pink shirts sipping coffee at a nearby picnic table. One of the ...

Lawrence Kauha‘aha‘a (right) leads Wailuku Clean & Safe, a program that hires homeless and mental health clients to sweep, clean and maintain the town. Val Patao is one of five outreach coordinators who assist Kauha‘aha‘a around town. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Wailuku Clean & Safe

For The Maui News If you don’t think a broom can be a catalyst for change, you haven’t been to Wailuku town lately. Over the past year and a half, Market Street, the town’s main retail thoroughfare, has undergone a remarkable transformation. “It’s night and day,” said Lawrence ...

Maui-born major league baseball star Kurt Suzuki poses for a photo with participants in the All Pono Clinic that took place in January at Maehara Stadium in Wailuku. Suzuki and his wife, Renee, created the Kurt Suzuki Family Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that aims to improve the lives of Hawaii residents by supporting medical research and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Kurt Suzuki

For The Maui News Kurt Suzuki may have made it to the big leagues but Maui is never far from his mind. The Atlanta Braves catcher and Baldwin High School graduate has resided on the Mainland since 2004 but hasn’t let the distance keep him from making a difference in his hometown. “I ...

People who made a difference, past and present

2017: Joyce Afalla; Mary Dungans and Mana‘olana Pink Paddlers; Lawrence Kauha‘aha‘a and Wailuku Clean & Safe; Keolahou Church Food Pantry in north Kihei volunteers; Kurt Suzuki. (5) 2016: Holoholo Bookmobile: Sara Foley, Dorothy Tolliver and Susan Werner; Wesley Lo; Don McLeish; Na ...

For Maui, a never-ending story

The “People Who Made A Difference” is a favorite of mine during this most wonderful time of year. Having had a hand in this annual holiday season feature since its inception 22 years ago, the stories of Maui County residents’ acts of selflessness and contributions that mean so much to ...

Dorothy Tolliver (from left), Susan Werner and Sara Foley pose with the new Holoholo Bookmobile they helped bring to Maui. They also got lawmakers to fund a librarian position for the bookmobile.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The Holoholo Bookmobile

They say good things come in threes. That’s certainly the case with Sara Foley, Dorothy Tolliver and Susan Werner, who joined forces five years ago to purchase a gift for the Hawaii State Public Library System: The Holoholo Bookmobile. “We decided that if we were going to give a ...

Wesley Lo, the former chief executive officer of the quasi-public entity that runs Maui Memorial Medical Center, led efforts to improve the Wailuku hospital, including the construction of the wing in the background. He also led the difficult battle to create a public-private partnership with Kaiser Permanente to operate Maui Memorial, Kula Hospital and Lanai Community Hospital.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Wesley Lo

When he was the chief executive officer of Hawaii Health Systems Corp. Maui Region, Wesley Lo found a way to turn a bad day around: He’d observe an open-heart surgery. “It kept me connected to what was happening at the hospital,” he said. “It was also a reminder of why I did my ...

Don McLeish points to Honokowai Point, where he has saved many swimmers from the dangerous rip current. He’s towed more than 100 people out of the rip current since 2009, likely saving their lives.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Don McLeish

Seven years ago, Don McLeish was on a mission to photograph some sea horses. “Underwater photography is a hobby,” he said. “I’ve taken thousands of photos of sea critters.” Sea horses are hard to find in Hawaiian waters, but a friend tipped him off: A sea horse had been spotted at ...

Judy Guajardo (from left), volunteer coordinator; Alida Murray; Candice Carter, executive director; and Kimber Niemann pose for a photo in the Na Hoaloha office in Wailuku. Na Hoaloha is a nonprofit organization that pairs volunteers with seniors or people with disabilities who need assistance with daily tasks or just a friend to talk to.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Na Hoaloha

Candice Carter can tell you with absolute certainty that the little things can make a big difference. “The small things really do add up,” she said. “That’s something I see every day.” Carter is the executive director of Na Hoaloha, a nonprofit organization that pairs volunteers ...

Dean Yamashita (left) and Craig Okita, former opponents on the diamonds of their youth, are coaches for the All Pono Organization. They teach more than baseball to their young players; they use the game to offer lessons about life. 
The Maui News MATTHEW THAYER photo

Dean Yamashita & Craig Okita

For Craig Okita and Dean Yamashita, “baseball is life” is more than just a catchy slogan — it’s a guiding principle. To say that the two men are familiar with the game would be an understatement. Okita played shortstop for Baldwin High School, then took the field for University of ...

People Who Made a Difference Past and Present

2016 Holoholo Bookmobile: Sara Foley, Dorothy Tolliver and Susan Werner Wesley Lo Don McLeish Na Hoaloha Craig Okita and Dean Yamashita 2015 A Cup of Cold Water Magdalena Bajon Judge Joseph E. Cardoza Bo Mahoe Betty ...