Raising The Bar

[popeye include=”2659,2660,2661″ exclude=”2662″]

Helping Others is Coralie Matayoshi’s Priority

By Lynn Cook

SUPER WOMAN, BETTY CROCKER, SUZY HOMEMAKER, BEAUTY QUEEN, BARRISTER-she has been called them all. But what Coralie Chun Matayoshi answers to is the call for help. “I’ve been a volunteer all my life,” says the woman dedicated to all things public service. One of four girls from a low-income Chinese family, she started volunteering in high school and graduated from UH Manoa while working for Aloha Airlines, serving as vice president for Beta Beta Gamma Sorority and becoming Narcissus Queen. “I didn’t get much sleep, but I did learn to budget my time,” she says with a smile.

A Magna Cum Laude graduate of UC Berkeley, then Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, she’s worked as a trial lawyer, special assistant U.S. attorney in Washington, D.C., and headed the Hawaii State Bar Association. The list of Hawai’i’s volunteer boards of directors she hasn’t served on is much shorter than those she has. She married, had three children and earned her stripes as a homemaker in the process (she’s quick to credit her husband for being the day-to-day, go-to dad while she was the late-night cupcake and costume maker).

Seven years ago she took on a new challenge, as chief executive officer of the American Red Cross, Hawaii Chapter; a job she accepted regardless of the $200,000 budget deficit that welcomed her to the post. Before she could wrap her brain around the budget needs, Matayoshi found that she also would need to raise $5 million to replace the aging Red Cross headquarters building on the slopes of Diamond Head. Enlisting business and community support, the jobs got done and her first year ended with a budget surplus.

Asked what most people don’t know about the Red Cross- she has rapid-fire answers. “Most think we are state or federally funded. We aren’t. Even though we are chartered by Congress to respond to disasters, we are not a government agency. Our programs and disaster relief efforts are all run from the generosity of Hawai’i’s people.” She says Hawaii Red Cross volunteers, side by side with fire and police teams, respond to a disaster every four days, including house fires, fallen boulders crashing into homes, the Manoa flood, the Kaloko Dam burst, earthquakes, and statewide harbor and home damage from the Japan tsunami. “You might be surprised to know that one of your neighbors is on a 12-hour shift, sleeping with a phone under their pillow. As one of our 600 volunteers, when they get the call they respond immediately.”

Matayoshi’s own late-night volunteer call came from a great distance. By morning she was packed and boarding the first flight out to New Orleans to work 14 days and nights, helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina. “We ate peanuts and church kitchen jambalaya and slept when we could. Some- times all we could give was a hug,” she says.

The Hawaii Red Cross has reached out to disaster victims for 93 years, beginning in 1917 with Queen Lili’uokalani and 16,000 volunteers knitting bandages for the “boys at the front” in World War I. Hawai’i responds to need; most recently, Haiti, American Samoa, New Orleans and now Japan, where the need is still funding, along with local grief counseling.

“We provide emergency communication between deployed soldiers with their loved ones. We train 33,000 people a year to save lives through CPR, first aid and lifeguard training, and we have been offering a free summer swim program at Ala Moana Beach Park for 45 years!” All of this Matayoshi says with obvious pride in the people of Hawai’i.

“Get involved,” is Matayoshi’s mantra. She enlisted her own children to run swim programs, teach CPR and volunteer most of the hours they were home from college. “I know what it’s like (to help) and what it takes to motivate people to serve.” Coming full circle in Hawai’i, Coralie Matayoshi will be back recruiting volunteers on campus. She has just been named to the University of Hawaii Board of Regents.

Donate or volunteer at www.hawaiiredcross.org

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Theme developed by TouchSize - Premium WordPress Themes and Websites