by Kim Charlson
In early March, when most people were still coping with dark days and cold weather, I had the honor to visit the Hawaii Association of the Blind and help them with the celebration of their affiliate’s golden anniversary in Honolulu.
The Hawaii Association of the Blind (HAB) has been the voice of the blind community in Hawaii for over 50 years. For half a century, their leadership, including Warren Toyama, the late Filo Tu, and current president Art Cabanilla, and so many others, have all contributed to a vibrant and thriving organization doing so many wonderful things for the blindness community.
I was so pleased to represent ACB, along with five other leaders — current first vice president Jeff Thom, former first vice president Brian Charlson, former secretary Marlaina Lieberg, past president Chris Gray, and immediate past president Mitch Pomerantz. We all had stories to tell about the hospitality we were shown, the generosity, warmth, love, and fellowship that we all experienced firsthand. Few organizations stay around long enough to celebrate 50 years of service, but I know that Hawaii is blessed and will continue to have a strong advocacy organization to represent the needs of all Hawaiians who are blind of any age well into the future.
The relationships that HAB has fostered with teachers of the visually impaired in the state, with the Department of Education, the Department of Rehabilitation, the Library for the Blind and Handicapped, the vending program, and many others, are all grateful to the generosity of HAB and the ongoing support and advocacy they have all benefitted from over the years. HAB’s influence in the political arena is amazing as well. The former governor, several current state senators and representatives, city council members, and judges attended their banquet, and over the years have all worked together with HAB members to make things better for people who are blind in Hawaii.
There are so many great and wonderful people in HAB, who made all of the ACB representatives feel at home, and I appreciate all of them — just a special shoutout to longtime ACB member Don Thomson, who never fails to make me smile, and the most wonderful woman, who was the best hostess, Landa Phelan, who always has a big “aloha” for everyone. The beautiful weather, warm breezes, sound of the ocean, delicious food, fragrant flowers, and tasty mai tais were pretty enjoyable too!
Congratulations to HAB on 50 years of outstanding service to the blind community of Hawaii, and many mahalos for what you do every day to make things better for everyone who is blind in the beautiful 50th state!