Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce Recognizes Pualu Awards Winners

The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce (KKCC) recently recognized nine individuals, businesses or organizations with Pualu Awards at its annual Installation and Membership Banquet at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai.

“Meaning to “work together,” Pualu Awards were established in 1979 to honor those in West Hawai ‘i for their dedication and hard work in the community,” explains Vivian Landrum, Chamber president/CEO. There were nine winners in seven categories and they were chosen by an awards committee from nominations received by Chamber members and the general public.

The Community Education award honors an individual or organization that promotes and supports education and enrichment programs that develop personal skills and lifelong learning. This year’s recipient is Laurel Gregory.

Gregory serves as the sole librarian for our West Hawai‘i Community College and in that capacity she has turned the library into a student friendly, welcoming resource center that encourages both on-campus and distance learning students to expand their educational opportunities.

In addition, Gregory has been a member of the Kona AAUW – American Association of University Women—and has been instrumental in this group’s support of two programs for continued education: Women in Transition and GEMS, Girls Exploring Math and Science. Through Gregory’s efforts, access and interest in higher education on Hawai‘i Island has been increased.

The Environmental Awareness Award taps an individual or organization that exhibits sensitivity and concern for the environment through innovative environmental practices and is awarded to Lipps & Son – General Contractor.

As a result of the March 2011 tsunami, extensive damage was done to the Courtyard King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel. Restoration required not only environmental understanding but cultural sensitivity as well. As this area is recognized as an historical site, it presented dual challenges in the renovation.

Lipps & Son’s team consulted with experts on environmental issues, cultural practitioners, families from the area, as well as state and county officials. They ensured the renovations not only exhibited sensitivity and concern for the environment, but also preserved its unique historical features.

The Business Innovation Award recognizes a business or organization that is committed to improving or enhancing employee’s lives, or exhibits creative product development, marketing or customer service. Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory and West Hawaii Community Health Center each received this award.

One of two Pualu Business Innovation recipients was Bob and Pam Cooper of Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory, with KKCC President/CEO Vivian Landrum (left) and Chair Debbie Baker (right).

Original Hawaiian Chocolate Factory (OHCF) is the first company in the state to both grow and make chocolate and they are lauded for their innovative vision, ingenuity and delectable chocolate. Finding no commercial equipment to process only an acre of cacao beans, Bob and Pam Cooper of Keauhou fashioned their own and now produce excellent, small-batch chocolate. Building on that success, they taught other Big Island residents how to grow cacao, resulting in 30 additional growers. They also offer a plantation tour for visitors to see their orchard and factory operations.

OHCF has developed a local and global market for selling their milk, dark and criollo chocolate as the first commercial, tree-to-bar chocolate company in the state. Their chocolate is sold at over 60 statewide locations and used by local chefs.

The other Business Innovation recipient was West Hawaii Community Health Center, with WHCHC Executive Director Richard Taafe accepting (center).

West Hawaii Community Health Center is a not-for-profit whose mission is to provide quality health services to all, regardless of income. Since opening, the center has increased its patient visits, from 2,200 in 2005 to over 32,000 in 2011.

To do this, WHCHC more than doubled its square footage in Kailua-Kona and hired more providers, opened the Keiki Health Center in Kealakekua, obtained an emergency adult dental van, which is parked at Kailua-Kona’s homeless shelter; and took health screenings and education into the more remote areas of West Hawai‘i, starting with Miloli‘i. This month, WHCHC will add adult care to the Kealakekua Health Center to better serve families in South Kona and will open the West Hawai‘i Community Health Center in Waikoloa to serve families in South Kohala.

The Lifetime Service Award taps an individual who has made a lifelong commitment to the community exemplified by their personal and/or business achievements. This year’s recipient is Virginia Isbell.

Lifetime Service Pualu Award: From left: Vivian Landrum, KKCC president/CEO, Lifetime Service recipient Virginia Isbell and KKCC Chair Debbie Baker

A wife, mother, teacher, leader, mentor, public servant, volunteer—each of these nouns describes Isbell.  She served in the state legislature for 16 years and then on the County Council for two more years. Isbell advocated for affordable housing and spearheaded the campaign to get state land for the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery .  She has served as an officer and director of Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club, helped initiate the West Hawaii County Band, (and played with them for 33 years), worked to obtain and improve the Girl Scout Camp on Hawai‘i Island and serves on the Kona Crime Prevention Committee.

Dedicated to making things better in our community, Isbell demonstrates excellence in her ability to identify problems, develop solutions, bring together strategic partners and stay committed until positive results are achieved, offering tireless service to Hawai‘i Island.

The Visitor Industry Marketing Award is presented each year to that person or group who diligently works to promote the visitor industry in West Hawai‘i. Congratulations to Kai ‘Opua Canoe Club’s Queen Lili’uokalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race.

Promoting the visitor industry is a beautiful and beneficial by-product of this organization’s event.  For the past 41 years, the Annual Queen Liliu’okalani Long Distance Outrigger Canoe Race has brought attention and visitors to Kona. Recognized as the world’s largest long distance canoe race, this Labor Day weekend event welcomes more than 2,500 paddlers from around the globe. The race partners with the Hawaii Tourism Authority and the County of Hawai ‘i to extend and leverage its world-wide appeal. This event highlights the state’s official team sport of Hawaiian outrigger canoe racing and includes additional cultural aspects such as a craft and ocean fair, torch lighting parade and “talk story” cultural walk through historic Kailua Village.

The Culture & Heritage award is awarded to an individual or organization that has exhibited, through its actions, practices that promote island traditions and preserves our multi-cultural heritage. This year’s recipient is the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa for celebrating and promoting the Hawaiian culture in a respectful, deep-rooted way.

Taking the model of cultural programs several steps further, the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa has made Hawai‘i’s culture core to its operations. Recognizing the importance of cultural revitalization and that the Hawaiian culture is what differentiates Hawai‘i from other tropical destinations, this resort offers, not only the “expected” cultural activities, but more. It has created Kaukulaelae Land & Sea Historical tours, including the opportunity to board a traditional Hawai‘i sailing canoe and learn the history and legends of the coastline; and the Lekeleke Cultural walking tour. Residents are encouraged to enjoy these tours and they are free.

Chamber Business of the Year: From left: Vivian Landrum, KKCC president/CEO, Rebecca Villegas accepting for recipient Kona Brewing Company and KKCC Chair Debbie Baker

Chamber Member of the Year recognizes the individual who advocates, promotes and supports the mission of KKCC through active participation on committees, events, membership and/or community service. This year KKCC honors two recipients:  a Chamber Business Member of the Year, Kona Brewing Company, and a Chamber Individual Member of the Year, Hazel Beck.

Kona Brewing Company not only strives to lessen its environmental impact, but aims to make a noticeable difference in our community. KBC continually donates product and merchandise to benefit local schools, non-profit organizations and county agencies—and KKCC is one of those recipients. KBC donates to the Chamber’s annual golf tournament, monthly AfterHours and Bid for Hawai‘i online auction. Without KBC’s continued generosity, Chamber events would not be as well received, successful or as popular as they are.

The Chamber Member of the Year has committed time, energy and more than her fair share of sweat equity to support the efforts of our Chamber. Hazel Beck, of the Hawai‘i Small Business Development Center, joined the Chamber in 2008 and immediately established herself within KKCC by volunteering as a resource for programs and serving on the education and later government affairs committees.  She was elected to serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2011. Beck was instrumental in producing KKCC’s first Economic Summit and she continues to chair and drive two of its resource groups.

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