In Good Hands
Sanae Morita knows what it’s like to experience hardship. She grew up during a time of war and financial adversity — in an era when everything had to be rationed.
“And being grateful for a package of oranges and apples,” she says.
Morita, who appreciates the bounty she has today, expresses her thanks by giving back to the community. The 83-year-old’s list of voluntary activities is so extensive, in fact, that her busy schedule rivals that of people half her age. The 1952 Waimea High School graduate is a Kaua‘i Retired and Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) Advisory Council member and has been a volunteer for the organization since 2010. Some of her other primary voluntary pursuits are as a docent for Grove Farm museum and a greeter for Kaua‘i Museum.
“It gives me great satisfaction because I’m always learning — I’m always meeting people,” says Morita, who exudes an altruistic warmth and kindness. “It makes me feel that
I’m doing a worthwhile service, as well as helping myself to keep my mind, body and spirit going.”
She is also a chairperson for the Hawai‘i Association for Family & Community Education state convention, as well as the craft exhibits for the Kaua‘i County Farm Bureau Fair. She even finds time to serve in various capacities at Līhu‘e Christian Church.
“When we were in high school, we never thought we’d be over 40,” she laughs. “I feel blessed to be able to still do this.”
These attributes, as well as her more than 55 combined years of service to the community, are why she was chosen as this year’s Outstanding Female Older American.
“It still is awesome and kind of overwhelming,” says the retired elementary school regarding her award.
Timothy “Timmy” Albao also knows the value of hard work and is another dedicated volunteer who spends much of his free time helping others. He is president of the Kaua‘i Chapter of the Hawai‘i Government Employees Association, Retiree Unit, and the Hawai‘i Association of Public Accountants. The 74-year-old certified public accountant is also a member of the Kaua‘i RSVP Advisory Council and has been since the 1980s, including serving as president since 2008. Additionally, he’s one of the group’s founding members who chartered the organization in the 1970s.
“It’s the best work of life,” he says about volunteering.
The Kaua‘i High School graduate was one of this year’s Outstanding Older American honorees. His charming personality, humor and commanding “radio voice” are part of why he receives so many requests to fill leadership roles in the community, of which he graciously accepts.
“Timmy is a go-getter,” says Grace Domingo-Delos Reyes, Kaua‘i RSVP’s program support technician. “He keeps going until he finds a solution.”
Between Albao and Morita, and all the other volunteers of Kaua‘i RSVP, the island is in good hands.
“We’re such a small community and the work that they do — the countless hours they put in and monies they help fundraise for organizations — is tremendous, and people need to realize the good work that these volunteers do,” says Donna Olivas-Kaohi, Kaua‘i RSVP’s director.
The organization, which is sponsored by the County of Kaua‘i’s Agency on Elderly Affairs, provides volunteer opportunities for people 55 and older. The group has more than 350 volunteers who serve at more than 30 volunteer organizations islandwide, including Child & Family Service, Līhu‘e Public Library, Kaua‘i Hospice and Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital. All nonprofits that are part of the program must encompass at least one of Kaua‘i RSVP’s six priority areas — disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families. Last year, Kaua‘i RSVP volunteers donated more than 29,000 service hours assisting these community needs.
“Volunteering makes them feel good; it makes us feel good,” says Albao. “I like to see everybody happy.”
Donating their time gives retirees a chance to stay active, socialize and continue broadening their horizons. And while they’re doing good for society, they’re also acting as role models for the younger generations.
“Hopefully it gives them (the youth) a sense that one day they can be like that and give back,” says Olivas-Kaohi.
The best part about Kaua‘i RSVP, however, may be the sense of community and support the volunteers receive from one another.
“It’s like a sense of family here,” says Reyes.
Visit kauai.gov/Government/Departments-Agencies/Agency-On-Elderly-Affairs/RSVP to learn more about the organization.