“Outstanding Older American” Nominees Announced

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maui county logoWAILUKU, MAUI – The Maui County Office on Aging today announced the ten nominees who will be honored at the 46th Annual Outstanding Older American Awards ceremony on Tuesday, May 6, 2014. The awards luncheon will be held at 11:00 a.m. at the Maui Beach Hotel’s Elleair Ballroom and will include an announcement by Mayor Alan Arakawa proclaiming May as “Older Americans Month.” The public is invited to attend; cost for the luncheon is $20 in advance or $25 at the door.

Judges for this year’s awards include Audrey Rocha Reed, Director of Heritage Hall; Ronna Patty, PHN; Cesar Gaxiola, Executive Director of the Cameron Center; Scott Seto, Executive Director of Adult and Community Care branch of the Department of Human Services; and Sandy Freeman, Executive Director, Maui Adult Day Care Centers.


The 10 nominees are: Louise Corpuz, Penny Dearborn, Sally Gospodarek, Barbara Kennedy, Kathleen Ordonez, Patsy Ponce, Tom Leuteneker, Fred Ruge, John Tryggestad and Kanee Wright.

Background on the nominees:

Louise Corpuz is a tireless, energetic, community-oriented 70-year-old who overflows with compassion. She lives Upcountry but drives frail seniors to medical visits as far away as Lahaina and every town in-between. She is described as a huge attribute to the Senior Medicare Patrol and all other groups with which she shares her time. She spearheads St. John Episcopal Church’s Adopt-A-Highway program, which rids Maui’s roadways of litter. She also gives blood and works to bolster food supplies for the Maui Food Bank.

Penny Dearborn is the 67-year-old co-founder of the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation’s no-kill shelter, to which she gives 12 hours a day. You have probably seen her on the weekends at the Maui Mall near the pets in cages as she actively seeks new homes for homeless dogs and puppies. She is credited with finding homes for 1,600 dogs and six horses since 2011. She also supervises students who volunteer at her shelter. They receive credit for their work.

Sally Gospodarek is a 73-year-old caregiver who gave six years of her life as a family caregiver, a 24-hour-a-day job that takes a heart of gold and the courage of a lion. After that, she found herself volunteering as an assisted transportation driver for Kaunoa, transporting frail elders for medical appointments, shopping and errands, and providing friendship in the process. The families of these elderly often express gratitude knowing that their loved ones are being transported safely.

Barbara Kennedy is a 75-year-old volunteer who spends at least a portion of every day assisting others. Whether it’s driving a senior to a cancer treatment, medical appointment or out to retrieve groceries and medications, she always says “yes” to any reasonable request for which she is available. She also goes above and beyond rescheduling her clients whenever one client’s need conflicts with another’s. In her four years of service to Nā Hoaloha, she has driven over 6,235 miles for clients.

Kathleen Ordonez is a 67-year-old Kahului resident who has worked full-time as a radiology technician at the Maui Medical Group for the past 44 years. Many of her co-workers look up to her because she is still working. Her granddaughter Rhianna nominated her to receive the Outstanding Older American award for her selfless caregiving of her father from the moment he fell ill and needed assistance in 2006 until he passed away eight years later at Hale Makua.

Patsy Ponce is a 79-year-old who improves the lives of her Senior Companion program clients. She helps them live with dignity as they decline in mental capacity and physical ability. Her presence is gentle, genuine and kind. She does not seek applause as she brings sunshine to those she serves. When her clients are placed in a nursing home, she pays them cheerful visits until they pass away. She does not forget her friends even when they can’t remember her.

Tom Leuteneker is a 73-year-old who helps Maui citizens from education and the arts to the children in the justice system. He heads up many non-profit boards, from Children’s Advocacy/Justice Center, to the Rotary Club of Wailuku. He was instrumental in the building of the Haiku Playground, and is helping his faith organization build a new church in Wailuku. He is willing to lend a hand and share his expertise with anyone in need.

Fred Ruge is an 84-year-old with the spring of youth in his devotion to help veterans of Maui through his leadership, fundraising, transportation to appointments and guidance through the challenging path to VA benefits. His accomplishments are notable: Korean War Combat Vet, lobbying to expand Makawao Veterans Cemetery, helping create jobs for returning Afghan vets, preventing veterans’ suicides, extending his helping hand to the homeless, and helping the poor as a Salvation Army holiday bell ringer.

John Tryggestad is your not-so-basic 67-year-old environmentalist. He is dedicated to cleaning South Maui beaches through Hoaloha ‘Āina, banding Hawaiian Wedge-Tailed Shearwaters through the Maui Nui Seabird Project, and recycling books though his affiliation with The Friends of the Maui Library. As if all this were not enough, he also gives rides to seniors in need. Most impressive was his tireless work to set up the Friends of the Library’s Pu‘unene warehouse and stores in Lahaina and at Queen Kaahumanu Center.

Kanee Wright is an 83-year-old volunteer at Hale Maha‘olu’s Home Pumehana site in Kaunakakai, Molokai. She loves to help and lives up to her middle name of “Happy,” bringing a smile with her everywhere she goes. She loves to keep busy by cleaning Home Pumehana’s windows, screens, tables and chairs, as well as running errands for the kitchen, office and maintenance shop, and delivering parcels when she is not on the road delivering nutritious meals to the Friendly Isle’s frail, homebound seniors.

Each May, the nation celebrates Older Americans Month to recognize older Americans for their contributions and provide them with information to help them stay healthy and active. This year’s theme, “Safe Today. Healthy Tomorrow,” highlights injury prevention. Older adults are at a much higher risk of unintentional injury and even death than the rest of the population. Unintentional injuries to this population result in millions of medically treated injuries and more than 30,000 deaths every year. With a focus on safety during Older Americans Month, the Administration for Community Living plans to use this opportunity to raise awareness about this critical issue. By taking control of their safety, older Americans can live longer, healthier lives.

For more information on the awards ceremony or to reserve a seat at the luncheon, contact Jan Roberson at 270-8221.