(L–R) Carlos Brandenburg, regional volunteer director, AARP; Barbara Service, nominee, AARP Hawaii Andrus Award for Community Service; Barbara Kim Stanton, state director, AARP Hawaii; Gerry Silva, state president, AARP Hawaii. Photo courtesy of AARP Hawaii.

(L–R) Carlos Brandenburg, regional volunteer director, AARP; Barbara Service, nominee, AARP Hawaii Andrus Award for Community Service; Barbara Kim Stanton, state director, AARP Hawaii; Gerry Silva, state president, AARP Hawaii. Photo courtesy of AARP Hawaii.

Democracy relies on ordinary citizens like us to define needs and find solutions to improve our community. We interviewed Barbara Service, a passionate, yet mild-mannered community volunteer, who has no government post or fancy title, but makes a difference by being a deeply engaged citizen.

“I worked in child welfare for many years,” says Barbara. “I know how government works, so now I help out on community issues that I think are important. I help advocacy groups prepare testimony and work on community fairs and workshops in my spare time. On the AARP steering committee, I work with others to promote needs, well-being and interests of kupuna in Hawai‘i.”

Barbara enjoys her work. “Public testimony is such a privilege in Hawai‘i. Our legislators actually listen to every citizen who comes before them. If you lived in California, Sacramento could be a 100-mile trip, and when you get there, the meeting rooms are not open to everyone. We are really very fortunate to have access to government.”

Barbara comes from a family of volunteers. In 1947, her great aunt Ethel Percy Andrus started the National Retired Teachers’ Association, and in 1960, founded AARP. Since Barbara retired as child welfare supervisor for the State of Hawai‘I Department of Human Services, she has been working “from the community side” through Keiki Caucus and Kupuna Caucus, headed by Hawai‘i State Sen. Suzanne Chun Oakland. The caucuses consist of 30 house and senate members, and 150 advocates from every corner of our community who all try to find solutions to community problems.

“I thought that after the legislative session was over, our legislators took a vacation, but they are hard at work with their constituents all summer, and that really impresses me,” says Barbara. “In the caucus, anyone can voice an idea or comment. Issues and solutions we work out during the summer are presented to the full legislature in January. It is American democracy in action.”

Barbara is also a member of Kokua Council, one of Hawai‘i’s oldest advocacy groups. The council invites leading speakers to their public forums at Harris Methodist Church. This summer, Virginia Pressler, M.D., director of health, and Rachael Wong, Department on Human Services Director, will speak and entertain questions. “It’s a wonderful forum and I am eager to hear the fresh perspectives these new Ige appointees bring to our community,” says Barbara.

Anyone may get involved in community affairs. We have the freedom to discuss, deliberate and debate community solutions — in our neighborhoods, counties and state. With so many needs, it takes plenty of citizens to figure out solution.

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