Hawai‘i Herald Columnist
Paul Nishimura retired early, at age 57. But while he didn’t want to work, he didn’t want to stay at home watching TV either.
“I like to feel like I can give back because I feel like I am kind of fortunate in my position. I have everything that I need. But if there are people that need help or are less fortunate, I want to be able to give back,” Nishimura said.
Nishimura volunteered at other organizations, but found a home at AARP Hawai‘i.
“I started helping in the office. It was really fun,” he said. About five years ago, Outreach Director Jackie Boland needed someone to lead AARP’s community service team and Nishimura rose to the challenge, so much so that he and his wife, Joy, recently received AARP Hawai‘i’s highest volunteer honor — the 2020 Andrus Award.
The award is named after AARP’s founder, Ethel Andrus, and is given to an individual or individuals to acknowledge remarkable service which has greatly benefited the community, supported AARP’s vision and mission and inspired other volunteers.
Before the pandemic, the community service team planned, organized and participated in one to two volunteer activities every month ranging from putting up holiday decorations for residents at Maluhia senior services to cleanup days at Hawaii’s Plantation Village and Central Union Church, to helping with Thanksgiving meals at Lanakila Multi-Purpose Senior Center or volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Association and Friends of the Library.
Since the pandemic, the team pivoted to virtual activities like reaching out by phone to socially-isolated küpuna, writing cards and letters to nursing home residents and making yarn lei for küpuna in nursing homes and to decorate the graves of veterans on Memorial Day. They hope to resume in-person activities sometime next year, when it’s safe to do so.
Gary Hanagami, a community service volunteer, nominated the Nishimuras. “Even though Paul is chairman of the committee, Joy is always there helping him along and in some cases leading him along,” he said.
“Joy and Paul are teachers as well as leaders. To me a good teacher is not someone who serves up the platter one way. You learn as you go and you participate actively. They encourage people to do that in the committee. They make it fun to be a member,” Hanagami said.
The Nishimuras are quick to deflect their accomplishments back on their team. “Everything we’ve accomplished is because of our team members,” Joy Nishimura said.
“It’s like a family,” Paul Nishimura added. “The relationships we’ve developed have strengthened the committee and kept us engaged.”
You can join our community service, advocacy and communications volunteers. AARP Hawai‘i is recruiting volunteers, especially those who are comfortable being online, planning online events, speaking at webinars, communicating on Facebook and other social media, and advocating for changes that benefit küpuna at county councils, the state Legislature and on federal priorities like protecting Social Security and Medicare.
If you are interested in becoming an AARP volunteer, go to bit.ly/aarpvirtualvolunteer to learn more and sign up.
Craig Gima is communications director at AARP Hawai‘i. He is an award-winning multimedia communicator with more than 30 years of experience. A Honolulu native, Gima spent nearly 19 years at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in a variety of reporting, editing and online roles before joining AARP in 2016. Gima graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California.