Community service is a calling for Maui’s Bill and Lena Staton.
Lena and Bill are retired. But they’re as busy helping others as when they were working.
The couple are Christians and active in the Kahului Baptist Church, where Bill is a deacon and teacher and he volunteers in the weekly prison ministry.
Lena was a Sunday School director and teacher.
For Bill, a Vietnam veteran, helping others is also therapy. It helped him deal with the PTSD he experienced after returning home from the war.
For the past 20 years, Bill served as the Maui County State of Hawaii veterans representative and continues to advocate for veterans on the Veterans Administration Advisory Board for the Pacific Rim, the Maui County Veterans Council and the Vietnam Veterans of Maui County.
So when plans were announced for the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War in Hawaii, Bill noticed a glaring omission. None of the events were scheduled on the neighbor islands.
“Why should Vietnam veterans on Maui have to pay to fly to Oahu to be recognized for their service?” Bill asked. And when he didn’t get a good answer, the Statons did something about it.
Lena and Bill are also active AARP volunteers and they asked the Hawaii office to help them plan a lunch in 2016 to recognize Maui County Vietnam veterans.
The event was so successful, Maui veterans held another event in 2017. Over Veterans Day weekend, events were also held on Kauai and Hawaii island with veterans groups and supporters, including AARP.
Lena helps fill backpacks with food for Wailuku Elementary School’s Backpack Buddies program, which helps feed students who may not have meals on weekends. She’s been the school’s community representative on the Wailuku Elementary School Community Council and is also a Red Cross volunteer.
She worked more than 20 years in the hotel industry and served 10 years as the labor liaison for Aloha United Way on Maui.
Last year, Lena helped found Maui Rescue Mission, a nonprofit group that helps the homeless. She now serves as the executive director of the group.
Bill taught anger management classes for nearly 30 years and created a free class called BridgeBuilders to teach some of the skills needed to maintain healthy relationships.
He’s also been a mediator and mentor for Mediation Services of Maui since 1987.
Over the Christmas holidays, Bill and Lena organized choir groups to sing carols to people in prison, nursing homes and the hospital.
For all that they’ve done for decades and continue to do for Hawaii, AARP honored the Statons with the Andrus Award, our highest state award for community service.
The award is named after AARP’s founder — Ethel Percy Andrus, who exemplified AARP’s motto: “To Serve, Not to be Served.”
The Statons have certainly served Hawaii and we’re all better off for their efforts.
Barbara Kim Stanton is the state director for AARP Hawaii, an organization dedicated to empowering people to choose how they live as they age.