‘It’s where my heart is happiest’

Neighbors: Profiles of our community

Suzanne Antounian is the executive director of Maui Adult Day Care Centers, a licensed, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides affordable, high-quality adult day care services to clients in a safe, family-oriented environment. Pictured here with Maui Adult Day Care Centers board President William “Bill” Kinaka, goes the extra mile to make sure every client receives the best care possible at each of the organization’s five centers.

It’s all fun and games at Maui Adult Day Care Centers.

Literally.

On any given day, the nonprofit organization hosts a variety of social and mind-stimulating activities — from card games to dancing to karaoke — that bring joy to its 300-plus clients.

And there’s plenty of joy to go around. Just ask Suzanne Antounian. “It’s the most special place,” she said. “I love coming to work every day. It’s where my heart is happiest.”

Antounian is the executive director of Maui Adult Day Care Centers, which was founded in 1974 by a group of residents who were keenly aware of the emotional costs of caring for an aging or disabled loved one. Today, the licensed, private 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization has locations in Kahului, Kihei, Wailuku, Lahaina and Hana (a sixth location Upcountry is being planned) and provides affordable adult day care services to clients ages 18 and older who are elderly, frail, disabled or have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.

Family caregivers have the peace of mind knowing their loved ones — who are no longer able to stay at home alone during the day — are engaged in a social day program that provides care as well as companionship. Services include daily physical exercise (commensurate with ability), memory and cognition therapy, hot meals and snacks, excursions, individual and group games and intergenerational activities. The organization also supports caregivers through family respite, caregiver support groups and workshops, and supportive counseling sessions.

Antounian stepped into the role of executive director in 2016, and needless to say, it was a perfect fit. Eighteen years ago, she was hired as the first marketing and resident activities director for the then-newly built Kalama Heights retirement community in Kihei. Marketing was second nature to Antounian, who had previously held the titles of director of sales, marketing and catering at the Beverly Garland Hotel in Universal Studios, Calif., and senior sales, marketing and catering manager at the Sportsmen’s Lodge Hotel and Event Center in Studio City, Calif. In 2004, Antounian became the general manager of Kalama Heights, and in 2009, its community manager.

Antounian, who had cared for her ailing grandmother, mother and brother, says working with the senior residents at Kalama Heights resonated deeply.

“My heart has always been with the elderly,” she said. “I will do anything and everything I can to give them a quality life.”

Now at the helm of Maui Adult Day Care Centers, Antounian continues to collaborate with many of the same community partners, including the Maui County Office on Aging, Maui County Council, Mayor Alan Arakawa, Kaunoa Senior Center, Maui Economic Opportunity, Hospice Maui, Island Hospice. Maui Memorial Medical Center, Hale Makua Health Services and The Maui News.

And while she may be the public face of Maui Adult Day Care Centers, she’s quick to point out that it’s far from a one-woman show. She credits the continued success of the organization (which recently received the 2018 Outstanding Nonprofit Agency Partner of the Year Award from Maui United Way) to its dedicated staff and board of directors. “We have a great team,” she said. “They are unbelievably caring and compassionate. I am so lucky to have the opportunity to work with them.”

Maui Adult Day Care Centers is always accepting new clients, and scholarships from private and public funds are available for eligible applicants.

“We take care of every person who walks through our door,” Antounian said. “For me, the greatest reward is making a difference in the lives of the people who come to Maui Adult Day Care Centers every day. It’s a special feeling.”

Maui Adult Day Care Centers will host its first “Monster Mash” Halloween costume dance party fundraiser under the full moon from 6 to 10 p.m. Oct. 27 at Maui Adult Day Care Centers’ Ocean View site located at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center’s Stanley Izumigawa Memorial Pavilion. Attendees will be treated to dinner, live music by Nevah Too Late, a pumpkin decorating contest (participants can enter their precarved or painted pumpkin) and prizes for the funniest and scariest costumes of the evening. Tickets for this all-ages, alcohol-free event are $35 in advance and $40 at the door; proceeds will go to the organization’s activity support and scholarship funds.

And Antounian encourages residents of all ages and abilities to sign up for the organization’s annual “Family Caregiver Walk for Our Kupuna & Caregivers” from 7 to 11 a.m. Feb. 23 at Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. The event will feature live music and entertainment by Nevah Too Late and the Electric Slide Tutus. There also will be complimentary food and beverages, massages, a health fair and prizes.

To learn more about Maui Adult Day Care Centers, to inquire about volunteer opportunities or to make a donation (funds can be designated for activities, scholarships or in memory of a loved one), call 871-5804 or visit www.madcc.org.

* Sarah Ruppenthal is a Maui-based writer. Do you have an interesting neighbor? Tell us about them at missruppenthal@gmail.com. “Neighbors” and “The State of Aloha,” written by Ben Lowenthal, alternate Fridays.

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