Honoring Women Leaders

Four women — Toni Torres, Donna Apisa, Carol Ann Davis and Laola Lake-Aea — were honored as outstanding leaders in the community recently by the Young Women’s Christian Association of Kauai (YWCA).

“It’s a fun and meaningful way to highlight the amazing women of Kauai and to inspire others as they learn from these women,” says Renae Hamilton, YWCA of Kauai executive director.

They were nominated for this year’s Na Wahine Alakai O Kauai awards by fellow members of the community.

“When we consider our small island, it is truly amazing the many accomplishments and positive effects women have directly or indirectly,” says Hamilton.

“It is also important to nurture the future leaders by letting them see local role models, so they can identify and value the gifts and talents they possess and how important it is to share these talents with others.”

Apisa, who founded Oceanfront Realty in 1985, was surprised and honored by the recognition. She was given the YWCA Perpetual Award, which specifically honors women who have worked to make the organization what it is today. She has served on the YWCA board for a number of years, including as president, and was instrumental in the purchase of the Women’s Center building in Lihue, the former Kauai Community Federal Credit Union building, which now serves as YWCA’s headquarters.

“The YWCA of Kauai is a wonderful and muchneeded organization,” says Apisa. “Many people helped me along the way to be the person I am today — it feels only natural and right to volunteer and help others.”

Lake-Aea is an advocate of Hawaiian culture, and is a canoe club coach who ensures her students are aware of the rich history of the sport, as well as ocean safety.

“Many people are not maa (familiar) with the ocean, even strong swimmers,” notes the former state and U.S. States surfing champion. “It’s rewarding to start with people unsure of themselves, encourage them to take beginner steps, watch their confidence and competence grow and see their transformation. Empowering people is rewarding.”

Torres is Department of Health nursing director. She has played a significant role in the Tropic Care program, which provides free medical aid to the community.

“Volunteering comes from the heart,” she says. “Giving of time, energy and expertise to a worthy cause, event or organization is making a difference in the community we live in, and it brings joy to self and others.”

Originally from Molokai, Torres moved to Kauai in 1985 and immediately connected with the community.

“I was apprehensive of this big move with no family on island,” she says.

“To my surprise, there were many who reached out and made us part of their ohana.

Looking back, I was part of this special community and it was easy to volunteer.”

It also was easy for Davis to decide to spend so much time volunteering. She is an artist who participates in several community service organizations, including Kauai Society of Artists, which she co-founded, American Cancer Society and Kauai Humane Society.

“It gives me a lot of pleasure to do things for my community,” she explains. “I love seeing the results of projects that have brought so much to our island.”

Her main mission is to help care for the island’s animals — on land and in the sea.

“I have worked all my life to improve the lives of the animals on this wonderful island,” says the happy owner of six rescue animals. She especially would like to see the humane society’s spay and neuter program “take off,” and for keiki to be educated about kindness and compassion for all creatures.