Philanthropy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, means goodwill to fellow members of the human race. Dictionary.com defines it as altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement, usually manifested by donations of money, property or work.
Along with humility, compassion, gratitude, perseverance and sense of duty, philanthropy is one of the core values that my parents instilled in me, though they never used the actual word. I thought a philanthropist was a rich person who gave lots of money to those in need, because that’s what Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) was. As I grew older, I saw the word associated with people like J. Walter Cameron, Harry and Jeanette Weinberg, Bill Gates and others who formed charitable foundations with their considerable wealth.
So, when Deidre Tegarden, executive director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, informed me that I had been selected to receive the NVMC’s Philanthropy Award, I was stunned. Even after her kind reassurances that it wasn’t an error, that philanthropy doesn’t necessarily involve money, I still feel undeserving and even a little embarrassed.
Philanthropy is one of four categories of the NVMC’s annual Hero Awards, the other three being Courage, Legacy and Leadership. As explained by emcees Brian Moto and Deidre at last Friday’s banquet, the awards were established last year to recognize Mauians for their positive impact on our community.
In presenting the 2017 Courage Award to Roy Katsuda, recently retired as Hale Mahaolu’s executive director, Brian said, “The nisei veterans courageously dealt with the horrors of war, then upon their return, worked tirelessly to reduce the suffering of others. This award is a tribute to people in the Maui community who use their position, influence and personal sacrifice to help others through tough times.
Continuing to the Legacy Award, Brian commented that the nisei veterans “did not let WWII define their entire life. Instead, they continued to work for the betterment of their community and established a legacy of civilian service. This award recognizes individuals who have dedicated their lives to improving Maui County.” Warren Shimabukuro received the award for his longtime volunteerism and advocacy on behalf of local baseball and Japanese cultural activities.
The Leadership Award has been appropriately renamed the Hiroshi Arisumi Leadership Award. Arisumi, one of the last remaining members of the celebrated 442nd Regimental Combat Team, is president emeritus and a founding member of the NVMC. David Fukuda, a retired businessman who embarked on a second career as an educator at the age of 50, is this year’s recipient. Now retired from teaching as well, he is an active volunteer and board member at the center.
The NVMC’s mission is to ignite human potential by inspiring people to find the hero in themselves through the legacy of the nisei veterans. The center serves our entire community, not just those of Japanese ancestry, through public service and educational exhibits. Currently featured in the Education Center is Part II of the “One-Puka-Puka: The Purple Heart Battalion” display, covering the Battle of Belvedere and other exploits of the famed 100th Battalion, which was formed 75 years ago, six months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The exhibit is open from noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Saturday, until Dec. 16.
For me, the most humbling aspect of receiving an NVMC Hero Award is being recognized for philanthropy by an organization that honors and perpetuates the legacy of true heroes who gave so much more than I could ever hope to achieve. I’ve placed the award atop the bookshelf that my grandfather built, next to my late father’s portrait. It’s one of the first things I see each morning, and it will serve as a daily reminder of my obligations to my family, my community and my race — the human one.
* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.