Today, reviewing my calendar for the coming week, I find myself marveling at my good fortune. Because I am blessed with a diverse professional life - performing on stage and on air, public speaking and public service - I get to participate in two big community events this week, auspicious occasions each. But so can you.
On Friday, you're invited to the "Launch Celebration" of University of Hawaii Maui College, the school formerly known as Maui Community College, and Maui Technical School before that . . . and Maui Vocational School before that. Maui Technical School joined the university system in 1965 and, a year later, became MCC. Now, as before, the name change reflects the growth of Maui's higher learning institution and represents the maturing of our community. It's something we can celebrate with pride.
I have no recollection of Maui Tech, but I do remember the old drive-in movie theater where the college now stands, the giant screen visible from Wakea and Kaahumanu avenues. And I have wonderful MCC memories - a semester of liberal arts courses, a sprinkling of VITEC (now EdVenture) classes, a variety of projects at the media center.
In November 1995, faced with major budget cuts, MCC took the bold step of holding a fundraising telethon. I remember my dad saying how proud he was that, while the rest of the university system reacted to the budget cuts with protests, MCC was being proactive. He was even prouder when the community came through with $100,000 more than the $40,000 goal.
My late husband, Barry Shannon, and I were among the emcees of that first telethon, and we had the honor of co-hosting several more after that, all from the tiny downstairs studio in the old library building. Nearly a decade later, with a new state-of-the-art media center, MCC revived the telethon for Ho'olaule'a 2004, a joint fundraiser for the college and Mana'o Radio. We gave Maui the Willies, literally: Willie Nelson and Willie K capped off an incredible daylong concert. Truly memorable, but that first telethon remains my favorite. It was beyond exhilarating, this connection between viewers and callers on all three islands of our county, coming together to save our college.
On Friday, we get to celebrate another big step for our college. The Launch takes place from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. on the UH-MC Kahului campus. U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye will be there, along with a host of Maui entertainers, including the director of the college's new Institute of Hawaiian Music, George Kahumoku Jr. Admission is free and yes, the UH-MC Culinary Arts Academy will cater the event. Reason enough to attend.
On Saturday, Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful will hold its Laulima Conference from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, followed by an evening of entertainment to benefit the cause. KHIB is a statewide organization based on Maui and headed by the tireless Jan Dapitan, who has devoted the past three decades to Community Work Day and now KHIB. It is an affiliate of Keep America Beautiful - which I thought had faded off into the sunset along with the tearful Native American elder in its TV ads. Saturday's conference is intended to bring together government, business and community resources to share concerns and create partnerships that will result in action. Like the MCC telethon of 1995. Positive, grass-roots, Maui no ka oi kine action.
The conference will include presentations and workshops on environmental protection and preservation, sustainability and beautification, and it's all free of charge - even lunch! Noted local experts including Ernest Rezents and Kelly King will be there, along with a whole lot of Weepuls. Remember Weepuls? They're still around too. As in We the People, Weepuls know the power of grass-roots action and have been quietly working to keep our islands beautiful for the past 20 years. Saturday's event is a celebration of the Weepul - and an invitation to join this renewed effort to clean up our act.
Following the conference, a gala benefit for KHIB will include live music, a silent auction, food and beverages, prizes and another grass-roots phenomenon - the made-on-Maui movie "Get a Job." Starring Mauians Willie K and Eric Gilliom and featuring hundreds more, including celebrities like the late beloved Charles Ka'upu and regular folks like my mom, "Get a Job" will not be shown again on Maui this year. The comedy screens at 6:30 p.m. in Castle Theater with pre- and post-film festivities in Yokouchi Pavilion, starting at 4:30. Tickets cost $20 ($25 on Saturday) and are available at the MACC box office.
What a cool couple of ways to end the week - with new beginnings. I am indeed blessed and so are you, just to be part of this community. Let's celebrate as we continue to create new chapters in the education and beautification of Maui. See you this weekend!
* Kathy Collins is a performance artist, broadcaster and freelance writer whose "Sharing Mana'o" column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.