Heart Of A Lion

Kaua‘i Veterans Center is one of the organizations that Lions Club members — (from left) Basilio Fuertas, Kelvin Moniz, Ida Cruz of the Kaua‘i Veterans Center, Harvey Kinoshita, Roy T. Nishida, Lion Elaine Saiki and Ron Garlie — lend their services to.


Lions Club members will drop before they stop, jokes Mike Johnson. The Kaua‘i Veterans Center management committee chairman is grateful for their continued support of his organization, where a small group recently re-striped the facility’s parking lot.

But that’s not all they do. In fact, the motto of Lions Club International is, “We Serve,” and members have been doing so for 80 years on Kaua‘i. The more-than-a-century-old global organization is celebrating its eighth decade on the island this year. West Kaua‘i Lions Club is the island’s “mother club,” which was sponsored by Lions Club of Honolulu in 1928. A year later, East Kaua‘i Lions Club was born. Since then, Kapa‘a, Kōloa and North Shore have adopted their own clubs, and, more recently, an internet-based group, Kaua‘i Lions Club, launched. While each of the six clubs specialize in different projects, their overall mission is the same. Throughout the years, members have focused on improving the vision and hearing of adults and children. Each club offers vision and hearing screenings at all schools within their region. Additionally, East Kaua‘i Lions Club, for example, is also involved in collecting eye glasses (drop boxes can be found at locations like Longs), which are, in turn, cleaned and shipped to a sister club in the Philippines.

Roy T. Nishida, past governor of District 50 Lions Club (comprising the entire state), says one of his favorite projects throughout his 47 years of serving as an East Kaua‘i Lions Club member, was networking in order to help to restore the sight of a woman in Africa who had a cataract for some 30 years.

“That’s my favorite story,” he says. “I will always remember that. It’s one person, but networking made that happen.”

Lions Club members work on re-striping the parking lot at Kaua‘i Veterans Center.PHOTO COURTESY EAST KAUA‘I LIONS CLUB

Elaine Saiki, East Kaua‘i Lions Club president, has some favorite networking stories of her own. She helped provide hearing aids to an elderly woman who was having a difficult time communicating with her friends and family. Saiki learned about the issue and since Lions Club International has a hearing aid program for those who are unable to afford them, she was able to help the lady acquire what she needed to be able to hear clearly again.

Saiki does these things because she is committed to giving back to the local community; a community that she credits with helping her family get by on welfare when she was a child.

“I thought this would be a good way for me to pay back and return whatever was provided for us,” Saiki says.

And give back they do. Lions Club members also extend aid to other avenues, including helping diabetes and pediatric cancer patients, as well as assisting those in financial need. Kelvin Moniz, Kaua‘i Independent Food Bank’s executive director and East Kaua‘i Lions Club member, in fact, holds the latter close to his heart. Another former governor for District 50, he has been a volunteer with the club for some 16 years and likes to help facilitate regular food drives.

” … And giving back to whomever we can give back to,” he adds.

Environmental projects are another area of focus for Lions Club members, including Ron Garlie of East Kaua‘i Lions Club. As the owner of Puhi Paint, he’s been instrumental in helping refresh public spaces like playgrounds and parks, and, of course, painting parking lot stripes. A big project that he was especially committed to was re-painting Vidinha Stadium.

Camaraderie exists between members of East Kaua‘i Lions Club, and many have known each other for decades as volunteers through the organization.

“He almost slept there overnight,” says Nishida of Garlie.

One of Garlie’s most memorable projects, however, was building some 40 picnic tables for Kaua‘i’s parks after the originals were stolen following Hurricane ‘Iniki. The 38-year Lions Club veteran says bonds were formed during that time that persist to this day.

“I like to help other people and the Lions Club gives you a venue where you can group together and get much more done than you can individually,” he says.

Harvey Kinoshita, an East Kaua‘i Lions Club member who, like Moniz, spent many years serving in the military, understands the importance of working together and giving back to those in need, such as veterans.

“We’ve got to work together,” he says.

Other projects that East Kaua‘i Lions Club members have worked on together include planting trees at the Wailua dog park, cleaning up trash along the roadside, helping keep time at Mokihana Aquatics’ swim meets, and encouraging keiki to serve their communities by fostering Leo Clubs — a youth extension of the organization which stands for leadership, experience, opportunity. The East Kaua‘i Lions Club is also responsible for initiating District 50’s “Sight is Beautiful” poster contest.

West Kaua‘i Lions Club also has its own fair share of community work focused on the westside. They primarily assist youth and hold regular events for keiki like an Easter egg hunt in Kekaha and a fishing tournament. They were also instrumental in the installation of five benches at Waimea High School, and have completed other projects that the entire community benefits from like restoring roofing at Kīkīaola Boat Harbor. But, like all Lions Club members around the island, they especially enjoy the camaraderie and like to get together on special occasions just to have fun.

“Our club likes to eat good food,” says Basilio Fuertas, president of West Kaua‘i Lions Club.

Still, it’s their service to the community that members take pleasure in most, and it’s one of the things that sets their organization apart.

“Lions volunteers are very trustworthy, hard workers,” says Johnson.

Find out how to become a Lions Club member or make a donation by calling 651-4089 (East Kaua‘i Lions Club) or 482-1165 (West Kaua‘i Lions Club).