Creating Family Through Food

Deborah & Happy removed lau lau from the steamer at the Hawaiian-themed "Cooking With Friends" session at Fernhurst. 

Deborah & Happy removed lau lau from the steamer at the Hawaiian-themed "Cooking With Friends" session at Fernhurst. 

With Hawaiian music blaring in the background and chicken long rice boiling on the stove, Deborah felt like she was home. As the youngest out of 10 siblings, she grew up in a busy kitchen watching and helping her mother cook traditional Filipino and Hawaiian food. On Saturday, Deborah was able to share that knowledge with her fellow residents at Fernhurst through the pilot program “Cooking with Friends”.

This monthly cooking session has brought women from work furlough and transitional housing together by sharing and connecting through food. The program has even attracted a few work furlough graduates, who helped decorate tables on Saturday with flowers and leaves picked from Fernhurst’s community garden.

“The thing I like most about ‘Cooking with Friends’ is getting everyone together, working together as a team and socializing,” said Deborah, who is a resident of our Homebase transitional housing program at Fernhurst. Deborah and Happy, a fellow Homebase resident, have been the backbone of this program since the first session in January.

“Food brings everybody together,” Happy said. “We all share and sharing is a big thing. It’s good for everybody.”

“Cooking with Friends” emerged through the SEEDS Initiative, a research-based nutrition and wellness education program that promotes social connectivity, education, exercise, diet, and sleep. The first session kicked off in January with a focus on Japanese food, led by Tokyo native and YWCA O‘ahu CEO, Noriko Namiki. She spoke about growing up in Japan and discussed the historic background and cultural significance of musubis and other Japanese dishes.

Since then, residents and staff have hosted sessions on Filipino, Korean, and Hawaiian cuisine. In addition to the cultural learning and cooking skills residents gain, Fernhurst Program Coordinator, Aunty Mahealani, said that “the real gems that come out of this program are the sharing of stories”.

“These kinds of gatherings are kind of like eating at home,” she said. “Everybody eats on the same kitchen table and we get to learn about each other a little bit deeper on a cultural basis. This program is really nice because it really brought Homebase and work furlough together.”

Currently, Aunty Mahealani picks up all the ingredients and coordinates the monthly cuisine for “Cooking with Friends”, but YWCA O‘ahu hopes to find a sponsor for this pilot program. Each session costs approximately $250 plus staff coordination. Although it may seem like just a cooking lesson, it means so much more to these women transitioning out of incarceration into the community.

“There’s something comforting about everyone being in the kitchen and cooking good food. Just think about a time where you cooked with your aunt, mom, or a friend. This is the essence and community that’s been created by Aunty Mahealani,” said Fernhurst Manager, Talia Cardines.

“Dine With Us” is another new pilot program which launched in February 2017. This project teaches women living at Fernhurst about dining etiquette and provides a safe space to practice dining and networking in a professional setting. Nearly two dozen YWCA supporters attended the inaugural dinner, including First Lady, Dawn Amano-Ige, and 2016 LeaderLuncheon honoree, Donna Tanoue. Guests were also graced with performances from pianist Julia Akatsu Stoyanov, who was visiting from Japan.

Sarah* is a work furlough resident at Fernhurst and wasn’t sure what to expect heading into the event, but she was surprised to find out she was sitting next to the governor’s wife.  

“I was so nervous, I was scared. I was like, ‘How do you talk to a governor’s wife? What’s a proper subject to talk about besides politics?’ But we found common ground on education,” Sarah said. “She was like another mentor helping me stay focused, reminding me of what’s important. It was pretty cool.”

YWCA O‘ahu hopes to host “Dine With Us” twice a year to help women in our economic advancement programs learn and practice dining etiquette and networking, but costs are high. We’re currently seeking corporate sponsors or even restaurant owners who can sponsor and host a session in their eatery.

For more information on how to support “Cooking with Friends” or “Dine With Us” please contact Cecilia Fong, Director of Fund Development, at 695-2620 or

* Name changed for privacy reasons.

The Story of Miss Morgan

Photo courtesy Arch Daily

Photo courtesy Arch Daily

Julia Morgan was more than an architect. She was a trailblazer who broke the glass ceiling of her profession. As the first certified female architect in California, she designed more than 700 buildings throughout her 47-year career, including YWCA Oahu’s own Laniākea headquarters.

In honor of Women’s History Month and Laniākea’s 90th anniversary, this month’s e-newsletter will provide an intimate look at Julia Morgan’s life and her ties to the YWCA.


Julia Morgan grew up with four siblings in a rather progressive family. At a time when young women were grooming themselves for suitable husbands, Julia was deciding her major at UC Berkeley. Her mother had always encouraged her to pursue an education, which clashed with societal expectations in the 1890s. She also received encouragement from her cousin’s architect husband to explore the male-dominated industry. At the time, the university didn’t offer classes in architecture, so Julia received a degree in the next closest subject—engineering.


Ecole des Beaux-Arts had never accepted a woman into its architecture program, but Julia didn’t let that stop her. After graduating from Berkeley she traveled to France to immerse herself in the language. She placed 42nd in her first exam as she struggled to convert measurements to the metric system, which she never used before moving to Paris. Her second attempt was discouraged by examiners, who arbitrarily lowered her scores so she missed the cut (Ecole only accepted the top 30 applicants). It was impossible for the judges to ignore Julia’s score on her third attempt, which earned her 13th place. 

At the age of 26, Julia Morgan was the first woman to be accepted into the premier architectural design school in the world. Three years later, she was the first woman to graduate and receive a certificate in architecture from Ecole des Beaux-Arts.


Shortly after graduating, Julia returned to Oakland and set up her own office in her parents’ former carriage house. She found a job working for the head of the new School of Architecture at UC Berkeley, John Galen Howard. She thrived as a draftsman and supervised construction of the Hearst Greek Theater and the Hearst Memorial Mining Building, both of which remain on campus today.

Despite positive reviews of her work, Julia experienced sexism at her workplace. She caught wind of Howard raving about her at a faculty event, at which he stated, “The best thing about this person is, I pay her almost nothing, as it is a woman!” Determined to make her own mark on her own terms, Julia opened an office in San Francisco in 1904. She was the first woman to be certified as a professional architect in California and the first woman in the United States to be certified with a full-time independent practice.


These words are inscribed on a cornerstone of the Oakland YWCA Building, designed by Julia in 1913. As young women moved from small towns to major cities, and as more women immigrated to America looking for a better life in the 1920s, boarding houses and safe apartments were desperately needed.

As a result, YWCAs popped up across the nation to offer these women a safe place to live, as well as recreational and educational activities. Julia designed 16 YWCAs in California, and also commissioned chapters in Utah, Arizona, Japan, and two in Hawai‘i (she designed the original Fernhurst building on the corner of King and Alapai streets). 

One of her favorite projects was Laniākea, designed in 1925 with “elements from both Moorish Spain and Renaissance Italy within a refined, three-story neoclassic facade. The front door is made of rich teakwood, beautifully decorated with carved flowers native to Hawaii.” The building opened in 1927 and remains the only YWCA designed by Julia that is still used for its original purpose. The facility has been recognized on both the state and national historic registers, but the cost to maintain this aging building remains steep, and the organization relies upon community support for its upkeep. Please consider a tax-deductible gift to support the preservation of Julia Morgan’s vision.


●     Julia Morgan’s office was completely destroyed by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. She opened her second office the following year in the Merchants Exchange Building, which she helped remodel.

●     She designed an average of 18 buildings per year and worked 18 hours a day during most of her career. Julia wasn’t known to eat many meals, sustaining herself on coffee and candy bars.

●     With her background in engineering, Julia Morgan was one of the best structural engineers on the West Coast in her time. She helped rebuild the Fairmont in San Francisco with reinforced concrete after the earthquake.

●     She worked very closely with news mogul William Randolph Hearst in creating the world-famous Hearst Castle, which features 165 rooms and 127 acres of garden.

●     In 2014, Julia Morgan became the first woman to receive a posthumous Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects.

*Excerpts taken from “Julia Morgan: Architect of Beauty” by Mark Anthony Wilson.

Kristi Inkinen Yanagihara introduces the 2017 LeaderLuncheon Honorees

Kristi Inkinen Yanagihara grew up at the YWCA. She learned how to swim in the Laniakea pool and attended day care while her mother worked nearby in downtown Honolulu. Today, Kristi is ready to create new memories with YWCA O‘ahu as the 2017 Chair of the Board of Directors.

“The YWCA is a special place, not just because of my upbringing (because I was there constantly), but the impact of what we do with our programs is wonderful,” Kristi said. “I just feel if you can present enough opportunities for people to flourish, they will.”

Giving back and helping people was ingrained into Kristi’s upbringing. As the owner of Remedy Intelligent Staffing, Kristi unites local businesses and qualified individuals in ways that enable both to prosper and grow. She followed in the footsteps of her mother, Kathy Inkinen, who founded the executive search firm Inkinen & Associates. Together, they offer local businesses a one-stop shop, from entry-level to executive staffing services.

Both companies encourage their employees to give back by joining at least one community organization outside of work; even paying for membership dues and professional development workshops. Kathy’s personal philosophy is that leaders need to be role models in the community by giving of their own time, and encouraging employees to do the same.

“To me an executive or good manager has arrived when they give their time to the community. That builds our community and that’s what we’re here for, but if you put your head in the ground and only do work in the office, you’re not growing,” Kathy said.

This year marks a milestone for both staffing companies. Inkinen & Associates celebrates its 25th anniversary and Remedy Intelligent Staffing marks its 15th anniversary, totaling 40 years of service. When Kristi discovered that LeaderLuncheon was also celebrating its 40th anniversary, the two companies pledged a combined $20,000 for a Ruby Sponsorship at YWCA Oahu’s annual fundraiser, instead of throwing a big party.

“Why have a party? It’s too much work,” Kathy said. “Why don’t we use some of the funds to give to a nonprofit where we believe the monies would go further than only recognizing ourselves. We know challenges of working women, mothers, grandmothers, mothers-to-be, and we’re grateful that we have a lot more of these types of women in this town. So we need to share our wealth.”

As Board Chair, Kristi served on the Selection Committee and noted that the honorees are very recognized in the community. “They’ve done really great work and have very successful positions in great organizations,” she said.

This year YWCA O'ahu is pleased to announce the 40th Annual LeaderLuncheon honorees:

  • Bettina Mehnert, President & CEO, AHL
  • Connie Mitchell, Executive Director, IHS, Institute for Human Services
  • Susan Murray, Senior Vice President, Queen’s Health Systems, West O‘ahu Region; Chief Operating Officer, Queen’s Medical Center - West O‘ahu
  • Crystal Rose, Founding Partner, Bays Lung Rose Holma

These individuals will be recognized at the 2017 LeaderLuncheon, to be held on Wednesday, June 14 at the Sheraton Waikiki from 12:00pm-1:30pm. Table sponsorships begin at $3,000 and individual tickets cost $150. For more information and to purchase tickets or table sponsorships, visit

Advocating for Women & Girls in Hawaii

Later this month, the 29th session of the Hawaii state Legislature begins. Here at YWCA O’ahu, this means a dynamic time of opportunity and change. As advocates for women and girls, we work with legislators and community groups to create positive, systemic changes. Our work spans all levels-federal, state, city and county- and across many areas.

This session, our priority is our Work Furlough resolution. The resolution encourages the Department of Public Safety to continue and expand community-based work furlough programs for women in Hawai‘i. As the sole community-based work furlough program for women in the state, we understand the need to increase this opportunity for women and the positive benefits participation brings to the community.

Our Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine (The Home of Reawakening for Women) program helps women transition from incarceration to the community. The day our program became operational in July 2015, we were at capacity with a waiting list of participants. Both our experience and national research show that graduates of work furlough programs have lower recidivism rates and are a better investment of public funds.

YWCA Oahu’s Advocacy Coordinator Kathleen Algire expanded on the importance of the program, "What we do at the YWCA makes a tangible difference in the lives of women. For instance, our work furlough program supports women in a way that they would not get otherwise. It supports them holistically as an individual, it gives them the tools and opportunities to succeed and offers a better chance, for not only themselves, but also their families, for their children and even their grandchildren.”

Additionally, we will support the legislative package put together by the Women’s Caucus, which will be announced at our annual Women’s Legislative Caucus Breakfast on Thursday, Jan. 26. We work closely with the members of the Women’s Coalition to support initiatives that benefit women and families in our state. “We know that when women succeed, that their communities succeed, and if you want to invest in the community, a great place to start is by investing in women. And so when we do our advocacy here at the YWCA, that’s our focus. We focus on empowering women and girls because we know that the results are going to be positive for everyone,” Algire said.    

YWCA O'ahu Highlights of 2016

December 2016 photo.jpg

YWCA O‘ahu started in 1900 with the idea that women can come together to build friendships, develop shared values, and learn skills to support the community. Fast forward to 2016 and our mission of empowering women and girls is as important as ever.

Glass ceilings have been cracked, but gender barriers still exist. Women comprise nearly half of the American workforce, but are still underrepresented in the boardroom. As more and more women have become breadwinners for their family, YWCA Oahu’s programs and services have evolved to better serve their needs.

We’re excited to share YWCA Oahu’s highlights of 2016, which were made possible thanks to the generous support of foundations, businesses, and individuals like YOU, who believe in our mission. We know there are many deserving nonprofits across the state, which is why we are so grateful for your continued support of YWCA O‘ahu.

 Here is how your commitment has made an impact in our community:

As of Oct. 31, 2016, YWCA O'ahu has:

      Launched the inaugural Patsy T. Mink Leadership Alliance. Fourteen women were selected for the 6-month program in September and have already received coaching from some of the top female business professionals on O‘ahu. Topics include networking, building a collaborative team, and leading with authenticity.

     Coordinated the first Girls Summit on Hawaii Island. The Patsy T. Mink Center for Business & Leadership (MCBL) hosted the one-day conference at Hawaii Preparatory Academy in October and invited students from Honoka‘a High & Intermediate to participate. The theme of the Girls Summit was “Women in Science.” MCBL hosted another Girls Summit at Laniākea YWCA in March, with 120 students from St. Andrew’s Priory and Farrington High School. 

     Reached 1,000 Health & Wellness members. Nicole Enos, Health & Wellness/Member Services Manager, has revamped the group fitness schedule with new and exciting classes like Kung Fu for Beginners, Gentle (Chair) Yoga, Core Strength Yoga, plus affordable personal training packages.

     Celebrated our work furlough program’s one-year anniversary. In 2016, YWCA O‘ahu served 51 women in Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine, the state’s only community-based work furlough program for women. Of the 51 women, 77% successfully graduated and nearly half of the women moved into our Homebase transitional housing program on the third floor of Fernhurst YWCA. 

     Suited 426 economically disadvantaged women with interview and work attire through Dress for Success Honolulu. After receiving their first free suiting, 96% of women said they felt more confident in getting a job and 100% felt that having professional clothing will help them perform well in their new job. 

     Trained 906 participants and provided 514 hours of one-on-one counseling at MCBL (from Oct. 2015 - Sept. 2016). The women’s business center also helped start 16 new businesses and provided access to funding, totaling $122,400. 

These are just a handful of highlights of 2016, but none of these milestones could have been reached without your support. Please consider a year-end gift to YWCA O‘ahu to help sustain programs that serve women at every stage in life. Thank you in advance for your continued support and helping YWCA O‘ahu empower generations of women across Hawai‘i for more than 116 years.