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

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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. 

New Direction, New Clothes, New Job


Diana Leon has come a long way – both geographically and spiritually.

After moving from San Diego to Hau‘ula, Diana turned her life around with the help of YWCA Oahu’s economic advancement programs, including Dress for Success. Nearly a year ago, Diana described herself as a depressed, shut-out woman struggling with a mid-life crisis. Today, she is ready to take every opportunity that comes her way with a positive outlook on life.

Diana felt confident going into her interview, thanks to her new outfit from Dress for Success, and recently got hired on the spot as an A+ Group Leader at Laie Elementary School. She dressed so well, employees thought she was an auditor from the state! 

Born in Los Angeles and raised in Tijuana, Mexico, Diana entered the workforce straight out of high school. After a brief stint as a telemarketer in Tijuana, she moved to San Diego for better opportunities and found a retail position at The Gap, where coworkers praised her meticulous and creative merchandising displays.

Despite her success, Diana felt unfulfilled in life and wanted something more. After eight years in retail she quit her job, left her apartment and moved back with her parents. During this transitional period, a friend invited her to live with him on Oahu’s North Shore.

“I was just looking for a whole new perspective on life and an opportunity to start over,” Diana said. “I was kind of feeling stuck, like I didn’t really know where to go or what to do.”

Diana took a leap of faith and made the journey to Hau‘ula, where she lived rent-free by taking care of the owner’s property. Although she had a place to live, Diana lacked income so she relied on food stamps while looking for a job. She applied to nearly 20 openings, from Haleiwa to Kailua, but only heard from a few employers. One of the barriers that Diana worried about during the hiring process is that she didn’t have appropriate attire for interviews.

“That was my main concern, because I can work on my resume, I can work on my cover letter, but when they see me…I have no work clothes at all, I have flip flops and shorts,” Diana said. That’s when her case manager suggested she apply to Dress for Success.

After speaking with one of the coordinators, Diana also enrolled in the Going Places Network (GPN) by Walmart, an eight-week program that helps unemployed and under-employed women build and develop professional skills as they search for jobs.

During her first GPN class, Diana and the rest of the participants received cell phones through the “Success is Calling” partnership with TracFone. She didn’t have a phone at the time and knew that this was a major asset as a job seeker. Diana also worked one-on-one with a mentor to help her prepare for an interview the following day.

After the class, Program Coordinator Bettelyn Smith helped Diana select an outfit in the Dress for Success boutique, which is supplied with clothing donations from the community. Once Bettelyn put together several professional options, she gave Diana the freedom to insert her own style into the mix. Diana decided on a mustard top with a blue cardigan, paired with grey dress pants and a thin tan belt, plus a red pendant necklace for a pop of color.

“I was going for bright colors, because I didn’t want to be so serious in my outfit, and it worked great because the people I went to interview with thought I was a completely different person,” she said. “They saw me walking in with my nice shoes and my dress pants and my cardigan and my purse. They thought that I was the auditor and they were scared!”

With the confidence she received from her new outfit paired with her mentor’s advice, Diana was instantly offered the job. As a group leader, she’ll be supervising children after school by helping them with homework and keeping them active through games and crafts.

Diana can’t express how grateful she is for YWCA Oahu’s programs and says her experience with Dress for Success played a big role in landing her new job.

“Having a coach work with me, having the new phone and the new outfit, that whole thing just made it all come together and helped me feel empowered to go out there and knock them out. Even if that didn’t work, then I was ready for the next one,” she said.

Diana believes that taking action and stepping out of her bubble was the hardest step in getting over her depression, and now she wants to pay it forward by spreading awareness of these free resources to her friends and others in the community.

“If you just say ‘yes’ or go in and ask, all of a sudden it’s like these people are taking your hand and helping you out to land the job that you want. You can’t lose anything if you don’t have anything to lose,” Diana added. “As soon as I started saying ‘yes’ to the opportunities, that’s when they started appearing. Now I get to start this new job in this new field, and I’m really excited about that.”

Supporting DV Survivors #WorkAgainstViolence

Did you know that 1 in 4 will become a victim of domestic violence? Did you know that 1 in 15 children is exposed to intimate partner violence every year and that 90% of them witness the abuse? These are just a few statistics on how domestic violence has quietly become commonplace in our society. That’s why this month, YWCA’s across the world are promoting a Week Without Violence, from Oct. 17-21. We want to shed light on this critical issue by focusing on education and awareness.

From a woman beaten with a baseball bat, to a woman being raped by a family member, YWCA Oahu’s case managers have heard dozens of horrific stories from the women in our work furlough program. The majority of incarcerated women that come through our Fernhurst residence have been victims of domestic violence (DV). As a result of the violence they have experienced, some women have turned into perpetrators, often starting for the purpose of self-defense.

Kelcie-Anne Watson is a full-time Case Manager and Roshian Lafaele is Assistant Manager at the Fernhurst YWCA in Makiki. It’s mandatory that they meet with the residents twice a month, but sometimes they meet much more frequently. Women talk to them about problems stemming from work, other residents, their family, and a variety of personal matters, including their troubled pasts.

“What we get is the aftermath of getting abused,” Kelcie said. “They’re not wanting to deal with the domestic violence issue right then and there because it’s not an in-the-moment situation. We’re guiding them through being a domestic violence survivor and talking about being confident, loving yourself and realizing that people don’t treat people like that.”

The repercussions of domestic violence can remain with victims for years. According to Kelcie and Roshian, women develop trust issues, lose confidence, and struggle to parent their children without becoming violent or angry. They begin to believe that their abusive relationships, which are often with someone who also has an arrest record, are all they’re good for. One of the biggest effects of DV is that victims become perpetrators, and many victims turn to drugs to numb themselves as a way of coping, which results in their arrest.

“For some of these residents, the only time they were sober is the time they were locked up. It’s the only real time of trying to handle things soberly,” Roshian said. “Our job is to make sure that if they are ready to revisit the past, we have to make sure there’s enough time to provide support so that she’s not just opening up a can of worms and then just leave it at that. There has to be a positive outcome.”

To help work furlough residents begin the healing process and transition into the community, women are invited to participate in life skills classes about maintaining healthy relationships, self-love, and self-care. The new S.E.E.D.S. Initiative will also help women make positive lifestyle choices through a customized model focusing on social connectivity, exercise, education, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep. One of the biggest challenges for case managers is trying to change women’s attitudes and perspectives—to understand that they don’t deserve to be mistreated.

“We’re changing lives and it’s hard. It doesn’t always go the way we want it to go,” Kelcie said. “Women are going to fall short sometimes and make mistakes, but all we can do is try to pick them up, shake the dust off their shoulders and move forward.”

As for what the community can do to help reduce domestic violence, Roshian suggested that there should be equal advocacy for men as victims of domestic violence, while Kelcie said that people need to stop turning a blind eye to potential DV situations.

“I think turning a blind eye is the worst thing someone could do,” Kelcie added. “You don’t even have to see anyone hitting, even if you hear someone going off-the-wall crazy, it’s important to call 911.”

If you want to take action against domestic abuse, please click here. You can also visit Laniākea YWCA during the Week Without Violence (Oct.17-21) to view our Clothesline Project--raising awareness of the impact of violence against women, celebrating a woman's strength to survive, and providing another way for women to break their silence surrounding domestic violence.