Maui is lucky to be the home of hundreds of outstanding nonprofit agencies. These organizations provide vital services to our community, oftentimes with a small staff and limited funding. The aloha of the wonderful people giving their free time, for no compensation other than gratitude, keep these services up and running. It is safe to say, volunteers are the backbone of nonprofits. 

The County of Maui, Department of Housing and Human Concerns’ Volunteer Center is thrilled to recognize 13 outstanding individuals that took the time to go the extra mile as our 2020 Volunteer Heroes. These individuals were nominated by community members through our Annual Volunteer Hero program.

Recognizing the 2020 Volunteer Heroes

It is especially important right now to express our gratitude for others and let the world know our appreciation. While everyone is doing their part to fight COVID-19 by staying home, the Volunteer Heroes are being recognized online, so that their legacy can endure, during Hawaii Volunteer Week (April 19-25, 2020).

A Celebration of Service with the County of Maui’s honorable Mayor Michael P. Victorino has been postponed however will be rescheduled when safe to gather together again.

These Volunteer Heroes dedicated hundreds of hours of support and fill a pivotal role for each one of our partner organizations. 

Meet our 2020 Maui Volunteer Heroes

Volunteer Heroes 2020 County of Maui

These volunteers are listed in no particular order.

Jeep Dunning, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, 2020 Volunteer HeroesJEEP DUNNING, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

Jeep Dunning is known for her love of teaching both young and old about Maui’s whales, turtles, monk seals, fish and more. She began volunteering at HIHWNMS in 2008 and has dedicated countless hours and an untold amount of energy to ocean conservation awareness. Jeep is a lifelong learner who takes advantage of having access to the newest marine science, taught by scientists at the forefront of their field. This passion for learning was really able to stand out when she was able to co-present at the 45 Ton Talk with Ed Lyman, HIHWNMS Natural Resource Management Specialist, to the residents of Molokai. 

PETER KAFKA: Pacific Cancer Foundation on Maui, 2020 Volunteer HeroesPETER KAFKA, Pacific Cancer Foundation on Maui

Mr. Peter Kafka, a cancer survivor himself and still undergoing treatment, is a very active volunteer with the Pacific Cancer Foundation on Maui. Peter is the leader and moderator of the innovative Maui Men’s Talk Story, a Men’s Virtual Cancer Support Group. He is committed to providing a setting where men and women can feel comfortable discussing the intimate issues that affect their lives. Peter helps many people focus on education and management of their disease. He is an encouraging force for all as he helps others to remain positive and take control of their lives.

YVETTE CELIZ,  Malama Maui NuiYVETTE CELIZ,  Malama Maui Nui

Yvette Celiz is appreciated for engaging and welcoming new recruits, always being willing to participate, having the ability to adjust to new and changing circumstances, and generally being an invaluable asset of the Malama Maui Nui team. While managing multiple responsibilities within the organization and outside of it, she finds time every month to host a cleanup and play a vital role in recycling events. She goes above and beyond in her commitment to Maui’s community and volunteering. 

ERIN ENRIQUES: Pacific Primate SanctuaryERIN ENRIQUES, Pacific Primate Sanctuary

Erin Enriques has held the title of volunteer manager of operations at Pacific Primate Sanctuary (PPS) for over 7 years.  She works tirelessly to keep this nonprofit functioning and is an inspiration to their volunteer community. Erin wears countless hats at the sanctuary. She trains new PPS Interns, provides free environmental education to Maui students, places orders for primate food and medication, does all of the book keeping, serves as the PPS Secretary, assists with grant writing, responds to volunteer applicants, supervises animal care, emergency care, and all PPS operations. If all of that was not enough, Erin also “keeps the Aloha alive” at PPS. 


Valerie Janikowski, RN, BSN is committed to serving the most vulnerable members of the Lana’i community. When Lana’i was confronted with losing access to home healthcare services in September 2018, Valerie gathered the community together to resolve the situation by creating  Lana’i Kina’ole, Inc., a nonprofit Home Health Service. Now, she provides vital medical care 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to anyone in need. Her dedication is an inspiration to her fellow community members and volunteers. 

MARTHA MIZNER: Hui Lailima O HanaMARTHA MIZNER, Hui Laulima O Hana

Martha Mizner has volunteered her spirit of Aloha for almost 3 years, collecting donated items from the community of Hana with Hui Laulima O Hana . She oversees the only thrift store in the area, located at the Hana Community Dialysis Home. Martha’s compassion and service provides people in need with clothing, household items, kitchen accessories and much more. Her policy at the thrift store is give what you can and take what you need. With this, she has drastically helped the community at-large. Visitors from around the world stop to visit the store and are always greeted with Aloha from Martha. 

VERNA TAKAHASHI: Hawaii Animal Rescue FoundationVERNA TAKAHASHI, Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation

Verna Takahashi gives tirelessly week in and week out to Maui’s homeless animals at Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation. She has made amazing volunteer contributions since day one when she began her service a few years ago. She is always willing to step up and help where needed. The HARF team recognizes her as an essential asset to the organization and feels blessed to have her as part of the team.

JOAN BANAAG, Organ Transplant MauiJOAN BANAAG, Organ Transplant Maui

Joan Banaag has dedicated her time voluntarily on the Board of Directors for 5 years since helping to found Organ Transplant Maui in 2015. She is currently the Vice President and plays a crucial part in leadership and support. Joan shares insights from her medical background as a Nephrology Nurse to provide help and knowledge in all support groups. She is a tremendous asset to providing comfort and compassion to help her patients, support group members, caregivers, and other volunteers.  

MIKE MORAN, Kihei Community Association

Mike Moran is president of the all-volunteer board for Kihei Community Association. Mike collaborates with local government, law enforcement, and other community members on concepts such as growth, sustainability, and infrastructure. He does this to ensure that South Maui remains one of the best communities in which to live, work and vacation. He is very dedicated to the goals of the Kihei Community Association. His passion for making the community sustainable through the application of responsible growth principles inspires his fellow volunteers.

BETTIE VENTURA, Haku Baldwin CenterBETTIE VENTURA, Haku Baldwin Center

Bettie Ventura began volunteering at the Haku Baldwin Center within their Therapeutic Riding Program in 2012. This program aids, comforts and teaches children with special needs. Bettie is best known for her nurturing personality and always wearing a smile when she volunteers with the children. She is one of the most dedicated volunteers, putting in over 700 hours for the past 8 years by helping with the program’s weekly sessions and assisting with fundraising projects & special events. 

ANNE MIURA, Chilis on Wheels

Anne Miura was the first to answer Chilis On Meals call for help two and a half years ago.  Chilis on Wheels is a program that provides vegan meals to the unsheltered in Kahulu.   She has gone above and beyond preparing and hand-delivering over 2,100 meals to the homeless over the course of her service. She is resourceful and thoughtful, keeping meticulous notes on quantities, recipes, and what her homeless friends like most. Her creativity also shines through when creating traditional Hawaiian mixed plates out of vegan ingredients.  

TRACEY WEST, East Maui Animal Refuge TRACEY WEST, East Maui Animal Refuge 

Tracey West came to the East Maui Animal Refuge during a time of serious financial stress. She knew how to help right away by instituting a helpful social media strategy, organizing public fundraising programs, and advertising for more volunteers. Under Tracey’s guidance, the refuge has left financial worries in the past and all departments have improved tremendously. Her dedication and passion make her a Volunteer Hero for East Maui Animal Refuge. 

LEONARD SAKAI,  Habitat for Humanity MauiLEONARD SAKAI,  Habitat for Humanity Maui

Leonard Sakai of Kula is recognized for his can-do attitude and positive personality that everyone working with Habitat for Humanity enjoys being around. He is a retired surgeon who volunteers regularly on construction sites every week, even contributing “equity hours” to a fellow Habitat for Humanity on the mainland. To date, he has contributed over 600 hours of his time across Maui, helping families at both the Kahoma Residential builds in Lahaina, as well as Hawaiian Homelands in Kula.   


Celebrate Our Heroes

View stories and photos of the 2020 Volunteer Heroes throughout National Volunteer Week on Facebook ( and Instagram @handsonmaui

To learn more about the County of Maui Volunteer Center go to  You may also email Wendy Stebbins, County of Maui Volunteer Center Coordinator at or call 808-270-7150.