2011 SmallBiz Success Awards

(page 6 of 8)

     Susanna Cheung says her goal has been to create a “real world”
     living and work environment for people in need.
     Photo: Olivier Koning

Lifetime Achievement Award:
Opportunities and Resources, inc.

Long Career Helping Those in Need

When Susanna Cheung, the privileged daughter of a wealthy Hong Kong family, came to Hawaii in 1961 on a whim, the only job she found was working with the developmentally disabled. “I had an immediate rapport with them to understand how frustrating their lives must be,” she says. “Like me, they were waiting to discover some direction and reason for living.”

Cheung, who’s been called a “firecracker” and “full of spunk,” says she decided she “wanted to help change the way these people can become productive and self-reliant.” Earning advanced degrees as a rehabilitation administrator and borrowing $6,000 in 1980 from her husband (still not repaid, she notes), she became an early pioneer in running a nonprofit supported by a for-profit enterprise. She is gifted with good instincts, compassion, boundless energy and the ability to convince others of her vision, and has used all of these qualities to serve people with special needs in Hawaii.

Opportunities and Resources Inc. (ORI), previously known as Opportunities for the Retarded, started with two employees and 30 clients. Today, it is a vast, $4 million social services and business enterprise, with 30 employees serving 100 clients. It offers programs, housing, training and employment opportunities for developmentally disabled and low-income people, seniors, at-risk youth and immigrants, among others.
Its 40-acre complex in Wahiawa includes:

• Helemano Plantation, a restaurant/retail enterprise providing vocational training and employment;
• Helemano Village, a 12-building housing complex;
• a wellness center for the elderly and disabled; and
• Camp Pineapple 808, a 13-cabin, disabled-accessible campground and facility that is available to outside groups.

Set in an expansive tropical garden setting, ORI reflects Cheung’s sustainable approach to helping others, with new industries in fish and shrimp farming, aquaponics (with the University of Hawaii), goats for grounds upkeep and future cheese production, lavender for oils and other fragrance products, fruit trees for retail products, and 2,000 olive trees.

“What Mrs. Cheung has created is … a living, breathing, productive community that cares for its most vulnerable, while at the same time providing quality lives for all the employees,” says Dr. John Magauran, president of Physicians Providers and medical director for ORI’s wellness center.

Cheung has enlisted the help and collaboration of government, private industry, foundations, other nonprofits and the military to create a “real world” living and work environment. She envisions ORI integrating more with the surrounding Wahiawa community, as seen in ORI’s new outdoor 1,000-seat Sir Gordon Wu Performance Arts Theater.

Cheung says her biggest joy is still a beaming client who, after a first day at a first job, says, “I work good.”

- Gail Miyasaki

Susanna CHeung
Founder, President and CEO of ORI
64-1510 Kamehameha Highway
Wahiawa, HI 96786
622-3929
www.helemano.org

 

 

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