Saturday, March 27, 2010

Jay Ogden.... Businessman who gives back

JAY OGDEN, Entrepreneur

Jay Ogden  is a person of varied experiences in the business world. Yet, he sees fit to give back to his community by volunteering his time and expertise in so many different organizations. Let me list a few that come to mind. American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, Catholic Charities, Montessori Community School, Catholic Diocese of Honolulu and Hospice Hawaii. Whew!

He currently volunteers at Hospice Hawaii in community respite and companionship services. For those who have been caregivers for aging parents and face end-of-life challenges and Jay has, helping to relieve the stresses that caregivers face is huge. Many times, caregivers’ health deteriorates because of such stress.

One cause of stress for a caregiver is the lack of sleep. I took care of my mom for 8 years and for the last year of her life, she wasn't very mobile and had suffered from dementia for many years. I sometimes woke and found her in the morning, lying on the floor, cold, but unable to get back into bed. They often try to move about and fall at night. So, one has to try to sleep, but always listen for any noise coming from her room. It wasn't until after she passed that I realized that I hadn't had a good night's sleep in over a year. So what Jay does, in offering respite, is very helpful for a caregiver's well being.

Jay, who was introduced to Hawaii over 40 years ago when he was in the Navy, came upon Hospice Hawaii through it’s chaplain, who is an acquaintance he knew from his work at the Catholic Churches. He immediately went through the training program to qualify as a volunteer and has been doing this for almost 3 years.

Jay also volunteers his business skills and resources to local schools and churches through his company, Ogden Agri-Services Corporation. The company advocates organic farming, gardening and land preservation for agricultural use and to reduce waste and pollution in the environment. See his website.

I got to know Jay through Jennifer Mann at Hospice Hawaii who thinks highly of Jay. Jennifer coordinates the volunteers at Hospice Hawaii.

I am amazed at how many people give of their time, resources and expertise to make our community a better one. As Jay puts it, “I believe that the blessings in life come into our life as a result of our desire and action to serve mankind.” Very true.

Sunday, March 21, 2010



Sometimes, it takes a learned person to see things that mortals like myself can't. For instance, many seniors don't need to file a Federal income tax return and they therefore don't file anything, including a return for the State of Hawaii. Professor Roy states, "If no one is claiming a low-income (retiree) Hawaii resident as a dependent, then definitely that person will want to file a Hawaii tax return to claim the Food/Excise Tax Refundable Credit which can be as much as $85."

Professor Roy always in deep thought

He was gently instructing me to do some research on the credits that Hawaii offers, including low-income household renters credit, child and dependent care credit, child passenger restraint systems and so forth. Yep! I'm a dunce for sure. Flashbacks of a kid sitting on a stool in front of the class with a pointed hat come to mind.

The Excise Tax Credit is in place to allow low-income residents some relief against this regressive tax that they pay when buying goods and services. And it's available only if one files a Hawaii tax return. Professor Roy says that if not filed for by December 31, 2010, the refundable tax credit is lost.

Professor Roy Kamida is a CPA and oversees the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program from Leeward Community College. This is the last week that free tax preparation service is available at Leeward Community College so check his website for times and days.

Many seniors, especially those in nursing homes are not able to get out to the site and the program can only be offered where the computers and the tax programs are in place on either disks or on a network. However, what many people can do is to have a family member bring the documents needed to file a tax return and the VITA volunteers can prepare a paper return for the kupuna to sign and mail in. As an alternative, even family members may be able to prepare this very simple return and help the senior to obtain the credits.

There are many other sites around the State where volunteers will be preparing free tax returns until April 15, so check Professor Roy's website for the details.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Jack Hewitt is another great volunteer at Leeward Community College's Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. He has completed two full careers and like a sponge, his intellectual curiosity keeps seeking more things to absorb.

Jack first retired in 1984 from the Navy after 26 years. He then began his second career working for the Federal Government at beautiful Camp Smith, teaching the military and civilian employees to use the computer. He retired five years ago from that and immediately began volunteering at VITA.

He came across the program when he saw an advertisement in the newspaper for volunteer training and figured it would be interesting work. I know those he has served are grateful that he made that decision. He also keeps himself busy as an adjunct instructor at Hawaii Pacific University and maintains the condominium website where he lives. His computer knowledge is certainly a resource and a bonanza for VITA.

VITA at Leeward is overseen by Professor Roy Kamida, a CPA. See his webpage for days and hours when this free tax preparation service is available. Time's running out so be sure to take the time to get it done.

There are many sites around the State where you can get this free service, sponsored by Aloha United Way. Jack himself first began at Makalapa Community Center (two years), then a year at Waipahu Community Center and has spent the past two years at Leeward. Leeward's gain is certainly their loss.

When you see Jack around, be sure to say "Hi". Well, not at any airport, though...

Sunday, March 7, 2010


VICTOR PUNUA, JR., A man of all trades

Victor Punua Jr. voluntarily cooks for all the volunteers at Leeward Community College's free tax preparation program every Saturday. His spare ribs are of the "broke da mouth" quality and I'm sure more volunteers show up than would normally do so because of Victor's great cooking.

Victor has been volunteering at Leeward for a number of years. He calls Kauai home, where he was an agent in his dad's insurance business, Punua Insurance Agency. He has been commuting since becoming a student at Kapiolani Community College and then at West Oahu.

His presence gives volunteers like me a sense of security because of his expertise in tax matters as well as understanding computers and programs. Let me explain further.

When I was accepted as a volunteer, I was so elated that I immediately went out and bought green eyeshades, armbands to hold up my sleeves and short pencils. I wanted to look like an accountant.

Well dang! When I walked in, I was shocked that everything was computerized. No short pencils and certainly no green eyeshades. Having Victor there gives me the comfort in knowing that he can help me on tax rules as well as fixing computer software quirks that pop up from time to time.

The rest of the volunteers are not as inept as I am since they're young students who can zip around the computer and tax rules with ease. My advantage is that folks who look at me assume that because of my advanced age, I must know a lot.

The free tax program is sponsored by Aloha United Way, among other sponsors. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, (VITA) at Leeward is under the watchful eye of Professor Roy Kamida, a CPA. See his website for hours and guidelines for the free service.

Professor Roy... No green eyeshades, no armbands, no short pencils

Victor gives Professor Roy a secret weapon when recruiting and in keeping volunteers. Smart feller.

Monday, March 1, 2010


Toni Tsusaki is a retiree who refuses to allow her work skills to deteriorate. She ran across a program sponsored by the Aloha United Way, Leeward Community College, among other organizations, called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). VITA offers free tax preparation to the aged and low to moderate income citizens who vitally need this help. Our tax system is so complicated that the average American will not attempt to prepare his/her own tax returns.

Toni found out about this program a little over a year ago through the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement and is in her second year as a volunteer. Although she’s fairly new to the program, she enjoys the time she spends preparing tax returns because she recognizes that it’s a service she can provide to others.

Toni has found that VITA not only helps her to stay current with the tax laws, but more importantly, it gives her an opportunity to meet people.

All volunteers must to go through training each year to be certified to prepare tax returns. Professor Roy Kamida, who’s a CPA, runs the program at Leeward Community College and assists in the certification process. He also is responsible for all tax returns submitted.

Free tax returns are prepared every Saturday from 9 AM to noon and every Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1:30 to 5:00 PM at Leeward Community College. The last weekday preparation will be Thursday March 18 and the final Saturday will be on March 27, 2010. These services are only for simple returns without rental income, business income and other complications.

Toni has been retired from Hawaiian Dredging for 7 years now, where she worked in employee benefits administration. With a young grandson who takes up much of her time, VITA volunteer work allows her to spend most of her time being a Tutu and yet fulfill her desire to help people in her community.