Sunday, June 27, 2010



There are some people who provide such a great community resource that I would be hard pressed to list all of the volunteer work the person does. Such is the case with Karen Sumida.

Most of her volunteer work was with the Queen's Medical Center, but she has recently increased the number of facilities served to include Kuakini Medical, Kahala Nui, Hospice Hawaii, Sacred Hearts Academy, as well as at various churches. Various non profits that she helps include American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, American Heart Association, Kapiolani Hospital, Arthritis Association, Alzheimer Association, March of Dimes, St. Francis Hospital and the Blood Bank of Hawaii.

Karen volunteers at facilities where patients are going through life and death choices like oncology (cancer), heart, emergency room and hospice care. She does everything from helping with paperwork to visiting and listening to patients as they go through recovery or end-of-life issues. I wonder if some fake their illness just to get the pretty lady to visit them.

Karen also has a collection of awards, including the 2001 Governor Kilohana Award for volunteerism, 1999 Queen's Kokua Pookela Award, 2006 Starfish Award from the Queen's Heart Center, 2007 Fire Starter Award from the Heart Center and a Certificate of Achievement.

She is also involved with music as a healing process where she sings to the patients, dances the hula, teaches sign language and plays the ukulele and guitar. What a full life. And she  works for a doctor, Dr. James Tsuji and at Oliver Baptist Preschool, a preschool after school care service to support herself. Whew!

Born in Los Angeles, she came to Hawaii as a young child when her mom, a Hawaii native wanted to move back home. Karen was about 8 or 9 at the time and had to adjust to life in Kalihi Uka and Waipahu. Big culture shock for a Katonk....a person of Japanese ancestry who was born on the mainland.

Karen has recently lost her mother and takes care of her aging father who is likely in a state of depression over his loss of his wife. Yet, she plugs along with her two part-time jobs and all the volunteer hours she puts in every week.

Ever since she was a child, Karen has always helped those who were weaker than herself or in need and has continued that habit into her adult life. And our community is better for it.

Truly an amazing person.

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