YWCA Women Leaders: Honoring Colleen Minami - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

YWCA Women Leaders: Honoring Colleen Minami

Mike Carter Mike Carter
Colleen Minami Colleen Minami
Howard Garval Howard Garval

By Stephanie Lum - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Colleen Minami is one of five women who will be honored at this year's YWCA Leadership Luncheon. She's the founder of Hawaii's only free dental clinic Aloha Medical Mission.

Mike Carter gets his teeth clean. When everything is done, he pays nothing.

"When you come to a place like this, they don't make you feel as though they're giving you a hand out but rather a hand up," Carter said

Thousands have come away with brighter smiles here.

It is the only free dental clinic in Hawaii started by a small woman with a big heart, Colleen Minami.

"I used to work for Department of Health. I was one of the administrators and so we used to come into contact wIth the homeless we were involved with IHS," Minami said. "And so the clinic was something I was real familiar with and it was something I wanted to do. I felt this organization really embodied what I wanted to do in giving back to my community."

The clinic has been around since 1983 when a group of Filipino doctors wanted to give back to the community. So, they started taking a medical mission back to the Philippines.

Where does Minami -- a retired nurse, wife, mother and grandmother -- find the time and the energy to do all of this?

He volunteer work has not gone unnoticed. In fact, it's earned Minami many awards including this one from the YWCA.

"She is just that kind of leader. She does it quietly, but she does it remarkably well," said Howard Garval, CEO Child & Family Service.

"She works so hard, she puts in a full day in here," said Susan Hughes, Executive Director of Aloha Medical Mission.

Minami plans to continue her work with the organization.

"You know my husband and I are dedicated to this clinic and we will do an endowment at the end of this year, $10,000," said Minami. "We will continue to put into the endowment because he knows how strongly I feel about this clinic. I want it to continue I know that it serves a purpose in our community."

Colleen Minami -- a true leader and an inspiration in our community.

As if that was not enough, Minami has secured funding to operate four more dental units by the end of this year.

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