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Heroes in every shape and form

People who made a difference

Maui’s frontline health care workers: Hospital Emergency Department staffers pose during their shift last week. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

As the daughter of a nurse and the sister of an EMT, I’ve always seen health care workers and first responders as my heroes.

This year, that’s truer than ever. As emergency rooms and ICUs filled up across the country, and as paramedics, police and firefighters responded to calls unsure of what they might be exposed to, our frontline workers became our first defense against the coronavirus.

That’s why The Maui News is taking the unique step this year of choosing health care providers and first responders as one of our 2020 People Who Made a Difference winners. While there is not enough time and space to recognize them all, we photographed and interviewed the ER and COVID unit at Maui Memorial Medical Center to offer just a snapshot of what our local doctors and nurses have had to go through. But whether you work at a clinic, a care home, a fire or police station, please know we are grateful for each and every one of you.

Readers also submitted close to 30 nominees, and our staff reviewed and voted on four winners: Jennifer Oberg and The Maui Face Mask Project, Devin and Cristina Pagaduan, Maui Police Lt. William Hankins and Gary Marks — everyday people who fed, masked and protected our community during a time of unprecedented need.

When schools shut down, the Pagaduans used their food truck to feed kids who were missing out on free school meals.

Lt. William Hankins

When worries over mask shortages arose, Jennifer Oberg and a team of volunteers measured, cut and sewed 10,000 medical-grade masks for frontline workers.

When food lines starting piling up at a local church, Gary Marks partnered with a local grocery store to connect out-of-work families with healthy meals.

And after he watched families mourn drunken-driving crashes, Lt. Hankins stepped up his advocacy against impaired driving.

They’re the well-deserving honorees of the 26th annual feature of People Who Made a Difference, the brainchild of former City Editor Christie Wilson, who is now with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, and with the support of now retired-Editor David Hoff.

The feature started out naming newsmakers who made a difference, and not always in a good way. Eventually it became an annual recognition for people doing good deeds throughout the year, often outside of the spotlight.

Gary Marks

The very first People Who Made a Difference launched in 1994 on New Year’s Eve. The publication date moved to Christmas Day in 2013 and became a Christmas Day tabloid in 2015.

We are so thankful for the work that all of our nominees have done in this community. Keep an eye out — you may see them in Sarah Ruppenthal’s “Neighbors” column in The Maui News one of these days.

* Colleen Uechi can be reached at cuechi@mauinews.com.

Jennifer Oberg

Devin and Cristina Pagaduan

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