Strengthening Hawaii's Communities

Advancing Nonprofit Excellence
Hookele Award

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The Hookele Award pays tribute to leaders from the nonprofit sector – the guiding forces in our community who strive to make Hawaii a better place. Just as a steersman, hookele, is key to guiding a canoe successfully to its destination, this award recognizes the significant role that a nonprofit leader plays in improving the quality of life for Hawaii’s people.

Since 2002, Hawaii Community Foundation in partnership with the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, has annually given four nonprofit leaders a $10,000 award for their personal development and renewal.


2016  Hookele Award recipients received their awards at a reception at HCF in August 2016. 
Pictured left to right: (l-r) John Leong, Juliana Rapu Leong, Paul Singer, Christine Richardson, William Akutagawa

 William M. Akutagawa, Jr., Na Pu‘uwai, Moloka‘i 
Akutagawa is the executive director and founder of Na Pu‘uwai, a Native Hawaiian health care system serving Moloka‘i and Lāna‘i. He has spent nearly half of his life working in the nonprofit sector working as an advocate for health and wellness for Native Hawaiians. He also serves as a board member for the Moloka‘i Land Trust and instructor with the Hawai‘i Hunter Education Program.

John Leong, & Juliana Rapu Leong, Kupu, Honolulu
Leong co-founded Kupu, which provides Hawai‘i’s youth programs that focus on conservation, renewable energy, agriculture and sustainability. Born and raised in Hawai‘i, he wanted to help preserve and protect the place that he calls home. Kupu is based on the “youth corps” model and is a member of The Corps Network and is also an accredited 21st Century Service and Conservation Corps organization.  Leong is the co-founder of Kupu with her husband John. Originally from Rapa Nui, Chile, she has a deep love of open spaces, nature and people, which has guided her to working in conservation. Kupu partners with more than 150 organizations to support nearly 3,000 students to empower Hawai‘i’s youth and serve their communities.  

Christine Richardson, North Kohala Community Resource Center, Hawai‘i Island
Richardson has served North Kohala for more than 22 years as a nurse and nonprofit manager. She has been the executive director for the North Kohala Community Resource Center since 2005 where she provides grassroots services for residents in the community and managers projects and accomplishes community-related goals.

Paul M. Singer, Assets School, Honolulu
Singer has helped to lead the way in the expansion of Assets including the purchase of the land the campus has been on for 21 years. He joined the school in 2008 bringing decades of educational leadership that helped Assets to expand the school and open a learning center on Maui. He also serves on the boards of Hanahauoli School, Learning Disabilities Association of Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Association of Independent Schools and Rotary Club of Honolulu Foundation.  

Learn more about the current and past Hookele awardees.