Article #1: Meet Vonnie Mataafa
Submitted by: Sister Kristine Saunders, PCC Archives
You’ll see her most nights keeping a watchful eye over all of the happenings at Hale Aloha’s Alii Luau. Chances are she was helping at some time during the day to make sure everything was in order and ready when seating for the Luau opened at 4:30. When I met with her, she was folding napkins with silverware so that tables would be ready for guests. “We are working short today, so I need to prepare the napkins and silverware. Can we talk while I continue working?” Please meet, Vonnie Lupetaliaami Mataafa Assistant Manager for Culinary Services.
Vonnie was born and raised in Samoa and attended Apia Primary School and Vaimauga High School. Before Vonnie was born, her mother was reading a newspaper story in the New Zealand Herald about a little girl who loved her mom and was very obedient. She thought, “Oh, maybe I can name my daughter Vonnie.” Vonnie’s mom received her obedient, independent, dependable, and romantic daughter.
In her youth, Vonnie was very active and athletic. She played softball and netball, which is similar to American Basketball, while in high school. Outside of school, Vonnie played cricket, at which she excelled as a pitcher.
Because she liked numbers, Vonnie studied math at Maluafou college in Samoa and worked as a clerk in the Department of Agriculture where she gained organizational skills and knowledge of office practices. Her brother had moved to Hawaii earlier and kept encouraging Vonnie to come to Hawaii for education and a better life. He said, “Just come and see if you like it.” Well, Vonnie came and ended up “loving it” and never left.
When she first came to Hawaii, it was hard to find a job. Vonnie didn’t have the necessary papers that would allow her to work in Hawaii. When her work visa finally came through, she started taking classes at a community college and working at the same time. Her first job was as a screener at Honolulu airport. She left that job for a short time to take her mother home to Samoa.
When Vonnie returned to Hawaii, she needed a job closer to home in La`ie and took a job at McDonalds for a while. It didn’t take long to discover that McDonalds was not the job she wanted. The Polynesian Cultural Center was the next logical place to start a job search. Her first job at the Center was part-time as a server. After a few weeks, she was transferred to the kitchen as a pantry worker where she worked for about three months. She took a short break and went home to Samoa for a visit. When she returned to the PCC there was a full-time job posted in the food service office for a timekeeper. The work experience gained as a clerk in the Department of Agriculture in Samoa gave Vonnie the skills necessary for the time-keeper position. She got the job and at one point was tracking hours and taking care of payroll for 400 employees by herself.
When there was an economic downturn, her boss needed to shift employee working hours to provide help in the restaurant. Vonnie’s new job assignment was working half time in the office and half time in the restaurant. Vonnie later started working full-time in the Gateway restaurant. When Greg Maples became the new manager for Restaurant Services, Vonnie transferred to Hale Aloha and became Assistant Manager for Restaurants.
When Vonnie first arrived in La`ie, she lived with her brother and his wife who were both members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Vonnie took the missionary lessons and was baptized after she had a dream where she and her sister-in-law were walking together down a long road. When they came to a fork in the road Vonnie asked, “Which way do we go?” Her sister-in-law said, “You have to choose,” and she started down one of the roads alone. Vonnie called after her, “Which way do I go?” Her sister-in-law just kept walking. Vonnie woke up with tears in her eyes and knew her prayers had been answered. As soon as she was baptized everything seemed to fall into place. Her green card came through and she found a job.
Vonnie is a very family-oriented person. From a young age, she has worked to love and support the people she cares about. In fulfilling responsibilities to work and family, Vonnie is very directed and steadfast. She said, “There are times when people have to be strong and make hard decisions. If we keep praying, the Lord blesses us in many ways.” She is grateful for the opportunity to live and work here. She loves the student workers like they were her own.
Her favorite saying is “Humble yourself before the Lord and He will bless and guide you.”
Article #2: Now, more than ever: PCC is asked to please follow these important precautions
Submitted by: P. Alfred Grace, CEO and President
Aloha My PCC ‘Ohana!
As you probably know, the state-wide surge in new COVID cases brought on by the Delta and Omicron variants has begun to subside. Here in the Koʻolauloa area (Hau’ula, La’ie, Kahuku), only 169 new cases were recorded in the last 14 days.
With this in mind, effective immediately:
- Daily employee COVID screenings by their respective departments will cease
- Employees are no longer required to wear a face mask outdoors in customer-facing areas. Employees may continue to wear face masks if they desire and it does not impede their work.
The PCC Safety Regulations in the table below, including the terminology “up-to-date on COVID vaccinations”, are directly from the CDC recommendations posted on their website, anyone can view them using this link: COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation | CDC. The PCC has been compliant with CDC recommendations regarding Isolation and Quarantine protocols since the outset of COVID-19.
PCC does not require an employee to receive a booster shot. However, we do require all employees to follow the CDC recommendations for Isolation and Quarantine protocols as stated in the table below.
Should another surge in COVID occur, we will most likely reinstate these requirements for the safety and well-being of our employees and guests. Also, please keep in mind the following requirements are still in force:
Common COVID symptoms include but are not limited to: high fever, cough, fatigue or tiredness, congestion, runny nose, sore throat, headache, body aches and loss of taste or smell.
Unvaccinated employees must continue to test weekly for COVID.
President & CEO
Article #3: Landon Hullinger Promoted to Sous Chef in Main Kitchen Culinary Team
Chef Felix is putting together a world-class culinary team and Landon has been a huge part of that success. His calm demeanor, ability to train, lead, take ownership and deliver excellent food are among his great attributes. Recently during the Omicron breakout, we had days where Landon was the only experienced cook from the main kitchen and with the help of our great staff and cooks from Pounders was able to train and oversee all the meals that went out. The food and execution were exactly the same. We look forward to all Landon will bring to our culinary team in the future.
With this promotion, Landon has earned the title of “Chef”. That is a big deal and we are so proud to be able to call him Chef Landon.
Article #4: Introducing the Hawaiian Word for the Day and Phrase of the Week
Submitted by: Terry Panee, Hawai‘i Village Manager
The word for today is “‘Aloha”. It is our most important Hawaiian cultural value. Without ‘Aloha, all the other cultural values are not complete. ‘Aloha is a noun meaning love, affection, compassion, charity, grace, empathy, and many more. It is a verb meaning “to love, show affection, give compassion, show charity”, and so forth.
The Hawaiian phrase of the week for the month of February is “‘Aloha Kekahi i Kekahi”. It means to Love one another. We are one ‘Ohana sharing ‘Aloha, and ‘Aloha kekahi i kekahi means doing everything with ‘Aloha.
Thank you, Terry Panee, for helping us to focus on true ‘Aloha as a representation of the values and purpose of your noble culture.
Article #5: Reaching Out with ‘Aloha to our ‘Ohana in Tonga: Ways to reach out through many hands and hearts
As many already know, the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted on January 15, 2022, resulting in ashfall everywhere in Tonga as well as tsunamis that caused extensive damage throughout the island chain. Many of our current employees have family members who have been affected by these disasters along with many of our former employees living in Tonga. Sadly, Kalina Pongi, a long-time employee in our Culinary Services Division, lost her father because of this tragedy. These experiences and our long-standing history with the Tongan government, artists, visitors, and friends make the needs of Tonga even more personal to us.
In response to the overwhelming requests by local community members in Hawai‘i, the Polynesian Cultural Center would like to inform employees of the following opportunities to provide aid to Tonga.
The Consular Agency of Tonga in Honolulu has created the Tonga Tsunami Relief Fund to receive monetary donations within the US. The QR code for that Venmo account has been provided here. Donations will be released to the proper agencies and government branches in Tonga to disperse aid where necessary.
A Tonga Relief Drive is being held this Saturday, Feb 12th, for specific items needed (see below)
Also, on Feb 18th the Tonga Tsunami Relief Fund will be hosting the ‘Ofa Fonua Virtual/Online Concert to raise funds. Donations can also be made to the Red Cross and LDS Humanitarian funds.
Tonga is resilient and with our help, their recovery can happen even quicker. ‘Ofa ki Tonga!
Article #6: Vaihinatea “Hina” Napa’a is Miss Kahuku in the Miss Hawaii USA Pageant this year
Submitted by: Delsa Moe, Vice President of Cultural Presentations
We are very proud to cheer on PCC’s own Vaihinatea “Hina” Napa’a, who will be competing in the Miss Hawaii USA pageant, as Miss Kahuku. Hina currently works in the Theater Dept as a dancer in the Ali’i Lu’au and HA: Breath of Life show. Obviously, she is very comfortable on stage.
The Preliminary Competition will be held on Feb 17th and the Finals will be on Feb 19th. If you would like to see the pageant, the finals will be televised live on KHON2.
Nikki Holbrook, a former PCC dancer, was Miss Hawaii in 2019 and 2020.
We are very excited about the possibility of another PCC employee winning a prestigious state title.