YWCA of O`ahu is honoring five inspirational women leaders at its annual LeaderLuncheon at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Coral Ballroom on Tuesday, June 12. Over the last 36 years, more than 157 women have been recognized at LeaderLuncheon. Past honorees include a diverse range of women, including Dr. Ruth M. Ono, Lily Yao, Patsy Mink, Haunani Apoliona, Constance Lau, Jean Rolles, and Emme Tominbang.
- Belinda Aquino, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawai`i at Manoa.
Aquino is the founding director of UH’s Center for Philippine Studies and founding chair of the International Council for Philippine Studies.
She played a central role in the Philippines pro-democracy movement in the U.S. during the Marcos years. She is a prodigious author of scholarly and popular publications, including Politics of Plunder: The Philippines Under Marcos and remains one of the most sought-after international academics or lecturers on contemporary Philippine politics, society, and culture.
- Lucy M. Gay, Director for Wai`anae Educational Opportunity
Gay began her career more than four decades ago working with Wai`anae out-of-school youth in the 60’s and then with at-risk students and adults in transition. She also serves as president of Nani `o Wai`anae and is a charter member of the Concerned Elders of Wai`anae. Her leadership has resulted in a permanent University Center campus in Waianae, which is currently underway.
Gay is known for being brilliantly creative in thinking out solutions and acting on them successfully, as a risk-taker, friend of the underdog and foe of the arrogant.
- Ann H. Kobayashi, Honolulu City Councilwoman
Kobayashi has dedicated her professional life to public and community service and has served the Hawai`i State and Honolulu county governments in various capacities. She has been elected to the Honolulu City Council since 2002.
In 1981, encouraged by friends, she ran for and was elected a Hawai`i State senator, where she joined a handful of women legislators to form a bipartisan women’s caucus. She served in this position for 14 years. Under her leadership and inspiration, the Legislative Women’s Caucus was successful in increasing funding, building public awareness and passing legislation for spouse abuse shelters, programs on domestic violence prevention, early education, and senior citizens.
- Betty Lou Larson, Catholic Charities Hawai`i Legislative Advocate on Housing Issues.
Larson has helped thousands of Hawai`i`s elderly and needy residents find homes they can afford. She has helped Hawai`i’s seniors continue to live independently by guiding them through the maze of government housing and assistance services.
Although retired after 30 years as Housing program Director with Catholic Charities Hawai`i, she continues as the charity’s advocate in the legislature for senior housing and homeless initiatives. She also continues to serve on boards to increase housing options such as Hawai`i Housing Finance and Development, Hawai`i Housing Development Corporation and Citizens for Fair Leasehold Housing.
- Shelley Wilson, President and CEO of Wilson Homecare
Inspired by her own personal experience when she was injured, Wilson started Wilson Homecare in 1996 to provide quality and compassionate care in the home. Today, her company is one of the state’s most successful private homecare agencies, and its excellence has been recognized both locally and nationally. In 2011, Wilson added a new service, a senior living center in Kailua.
In the community, Wilson served as 2010-2011 chair of the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai`i. She serves on the Chaminade University Board of Regents and is a board member of Kapiolani Medical Health Center for Women and Children, East-West Center Foundation and Kahi Mohala Behavioral Health.
“I am in awe of the exemplary leadership that these women provide to our community every day,” said Kimberly Miyazawa Frank, CEO of the YWCA of O`ahu.
Since 1977, the YWCA has honored more than 157 women and the contributions they have made to the community, their respective professions, and their families.
The YWCA of O`ahu is a membership organization supporting more than 2,500 women and girls through housing, economic self-sufficiency, professional development, and health and wellness.