YWCA honors Manoa Heritage Center co-founder

YWCA honors Manoa Heritage Center co-founder

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every year, the YWCA has recognized extraordinary women for their service to our community. More than 160 women have been honored in the last 38 years.

One of the YWCA 2015 LeaderLuncheon honorees is Mary Moragne Cooke, whose family established the Manoa Heritage Center in 1996 to preserve and protect one of O'ahu's historic sites.

"Manoa is a very special place and in order to share Manoa's history and culture with the rest of the world we thought this would be a good place to do that, so that's our goal - to really educate people about Manoa and it's importance and it's history," said Cooke.

The Manoa Heritage Center was co-founded by Mary Moragne Cooke and her husband, Sam -- who still live in the historic home, Kuali'i, that was built in 1911 and will eventually become a museum.

"I'm so passionate about historic preservation. It just makes me very happy to be able to share with everyone, so that's the legacy I hope to leave," said Cooke.

Sitting on the three acre property is what's believed to be an 800 year old agricultural heiau -- one of 14 that once stood within the Waikiki ahupua'a, but is now the only one still intact.

The Kuka'o'o heiau is surrounded by a garden featuring endemic and indigenous plants -- even a few endangered species. Eventually everything will be left to the foundation, which is in the process of building a LEED-certified visitor's center that has incorporated a water conservation design to route rain to the plants.

"It makes you feel good when you can give back to the community what you care greatly about. That would be my advice to the YWCA ladies -- find something that you're passionate about and share it with the rest of the world," said Cooke, who turns 79 the day of the luncheon in her honor.

Approximately, 2,700 people visit the Manoa Heritage Center each year. More than 70% of them are students who invited to tour the grounds for free. The others are by reservation only for a minimal fee -- all of which goes back to preserving and protecting the historic site.

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