When Liz Watanabe isn’t busy being a wife, a mother of an active 2-year-old and operating her O Lounge nightclub, she’s hosting and coordinating charitable events.
“I concentrate on kids because I’m a mom,” she says about her volunteer projects.
She volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters by hosting an essay contest to send a family of four to Disneyland. For the winning essay, says Watanabe, “A boy wrote a heart-warming essay about his wish for his paraplegic sister.”
Another organization that is near and dear to her is the National Kidney Foundation, because her grandfather died from kidney failure. She’s coordinated four events, which raised $10,000.
“I try to incorporate it with the business to get the younger generation to help,” she says. “And now lots of clubs are doing charity events. We can really make a difference.”
Watanabe, who completed her master’s degree in strategic marketing in Mexico City, was recognized for her business acumen as part of the Pacific Business News “40 under 40” in 2006.
She also was nominated and accepted to the board of the YWCA.
With Big Brothers Big Sisters, Make A Wish Foundation and participating churches, she brought 300 children in limousines to see the Honolulu City Lights over the holidays. Keiki were treated to hot cocoa and cookies, and each received a book as a gift. She secured sponsors to donate services and items for the children.
In her second year as the Oahu chair of Christmas Wish, she fed 300 families and started five craft stations for the children. The keiki also enjoyed having their photos taken with Santa.
Watanabe says she appreciates the support of her husband Kevin, a Honolulu Police Department officer, whom she met in a criminology class at the University of Hawaii.
The Ewa resident encourages others to give back too. “It’s getting to that point where we’re so pressed for time as we balance family and career,” adds Watanabe, who celebrates O Lounge’s second anniversary in October.
“People can contribute financially, or give of their time.”
- Linda Dela Cruz
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