Jan Dapitan, one of Maui’s historic community leaders in the anti-litter movement, was presented with the 2015 Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award at Keep America Beautiful’s National Conference in Orlando, Florida on February 1. The Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson Award is Keep America Beautiful’s top volunteer award, and was created in honor of the former First Lady’s contribution to engaging the nation in recognizing that aesthetic beauty is directly related to healthier communities, a cleaner environment, and a better quality of life.
“Jan Dapitan has dedicated over 30 years to addressing conservation issues in Hawaii, the majority of which has been in partnership with Keep America Beautiful,” said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Jennifer Jehn. “Even in retirement, Jan serves as inspiration and resource for all the local and statewide organizations she has touched.”
Dapitan has spent the majority of her adult life serving the public — from teaching at Kamehameha Schools, University of Hawai‘i—Mānoa, and Baldwin High School to directing the Maui County Parks & Recreation Department. During her time with the County, Jan developed innovative volunteer programs such as Adopt-a-Park and other environmental awareness efforts that identified her to then-Health Department Administrator Les Ihara as the person on Maui to become a founding board member of the Department of Health, Office of Litter Control’s new initiative called “Community Work Day Program” (CWD).
CWD would function as the administrative center to a growing network of volunteer-run entities across the state working to tackle the litter and blight issues plaguing the islands in the 1980’s; it soon thereafter became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and a Keep America Beautiful (KAB) affiliate in 1993.
Dapitan became the Hawai‘i State Leader for KAB in 1997, transferring CWD’s headquarters to Maui after the Office of Litter Control closed in 1996. Dapitan continued to coordinate anti-litter projects and provide training support for the growing KAB affiliate network statewide, while also running litter prevention, recycling, and beautification projects locally.
Dapitan helped establish a culture of volunteerism in Maui County, maintaining a volunteer registry of 5,000 strong. “One of Jan’s most significant strengths lies in the way she has brought people together from all walks of life whether they are students, government employees, athletes, farmers, or businessmen and women,” said Lehn Huff of Maui School Garden Network and Mālama Maui Nui Board Co-President. “Jan unites them into a common purpose that serves the soul as well as the land.”
As a part of a grant-in-aid mandate to strengthen the ongoing statewide KAB system, an independent state affiliate was created in 2008: the nonprofit Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful (KHIB). Dapitan volunteered to stay on as the Hawai’i State Leader, working within KHIB to coordinate the six local affiliates until a transition process could return the KAB state headquarters back to Honolulu in July 2015. CWD continued operating as a local KAB affiliate for Maui County, now doing business as the environmental nonprofit Mālama Maui Nui.
“In today’s world, with all that is happening in the sustainability movement, it is hard for most of us to imagine the passion, dedication, and hard work it took pioneers like Jan to help establish a movement to mālama ʻāina here in Hawaiʻi,” said Kainoa Casco, Chief Responsibility Officer for Susty Pacific and Mālama Maui Nui Board Co-President. “ We must appreciate leaders like Jan and others before us who gave us a foundation to build on.”
Among Dapitan’s greatest achievements to date was spearheading the establishment of Hawai‘i’s Environmental Court — only the second of its kind in the U.S. Currently, Dapitan continues to advise both KHIB and Mālama Maui Nui as State Leader Emeritus.
“The Hawaiian Islands are 2,000 miles from the mainland, but everyone knows about Mrs. Johnson,” said Dapitan in accepting the award. “In my years in Hawai’i, I’ve been blessed to know caring people across this beautiful state who live the Hawai’ian values of aloha ‘āina–love of the land, mālama ‘āina–take care of the land, and laulima–working together”.