Yuki Lei Sugimura & Arleen Gerbig named 2021 Kūpuna Advocates

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July 20, 2021

Lee Cataluna to speak at virtual MEO 49th Annual Kūpuna Aloha Celebration on July 30

Kūpuna Advocates of the Year – Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura and west side senior leader Arleen Gerbig – will be honored at Maui Economic Opportunity’s 49th Annual Kūpuna Aloha Celebration, which will be held virtually Friday, July 30.

The celebration, titled “Remembering the Plantation Days,” will be shown from 10 to 11:30 a.m. via Zoom, on MEO’s Facebook page and on Akaku: Maui Community Media Channel 54. The guest speaker will be Civil Beat columnist Lee Cataluna, who has ties to Maui.

Yuki Lei, a Baldwin High graduate and Kula resident, is a three-term council member who holds the Upcountry residency seat. Yuki Lei has advocated for Maui County kupuna as council member, businesswoman, member of state and county boards and commissions, community organizer and Maui County representative for U.S. Sens. Daniel Akaka and Mazie Hirono.

Bringing the community together is a theme of the events Yuki Lei has helped organize with many involving Maui County kupuna. She has coordinated the Makawao Fourth of July Parade, jumping in when there was a leadership void; Festivals of Aloha; Wailuku First Friday; Maui Matsuri; Maui Sugar Plantation Festival with the Alexander & Baldwin Sugar Museum; Seabury Hall Craft Fair and Maui Chinese New Year’s Festival.

She has served as board member of the Japanese Cultural Society of Maui, Maui Filipino Chamber of Commerce, Nisei Veterans Memorial Center and Maui Memorial Medical Center, as well as vice chairwoman of the Maui County Democratic Party State Central Committee and a member of the previous Maui County Charter Commission.

Arleen, who was named MEO Volunteer of the Year earlier this year, has been very active keeping kupuna informed and physically and mentally healthy during the pandemic. She became Zoom literate and organizes a food distribution once a month – and occasionally has made deliveries herself.

The wife, mother and grandmother joined the Lahaina-Honolua Senior Club in 2003 and became its president in 2016. Among the activities of the club, formed more than 50 years ago, is to make and sell lei at the Baldwin Home Museum to raise money for Lahainaluna High scholarships. (That activity has been suspended during the pandemic.)

She is currently an MEO Board member and president of the Planning & Coordinating Council, a group of kupuna club leaders countywide. Arleen also plays and serves as booking agent for Na Kupuna ‘Ohana Serenaders & Dancers.

In addition to the Kūpuna Advocate of the Year presentations, there will be music by Na Koa, remarks by Maui County government officials and door prizes, which will be delivered to winners. The celebration can be accessed via Zoom with the ID 99783666171 and passcode 782457.

For more information about the celebration, contact Zilpah Kaimiola, Planning & Coordinating Council coordinator at MEO, at 243-4313.

Arleen Gerbig has been named a 2021 Kupuna Advocate of the Year by Maui Economic Opportunity. She is Lahaina-Honolua Senior Club president and an MEO board member.

Council Member Yuki Lei Sugimura has been chosen a 2021 Kupuna Advocate of the Year by Maui Economic Opportunity. She has been a strong supporter of kupuna on the council and in her community and business activities.

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