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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 12, 2001

Rod Ohira's People
Sorority reaches into community

By Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writer

Independent and visionary are two words that describe University of Hawai'i-Manoa sorority Beta Beta Gamma's 53 years.

Members and alumni of Beta Beta Gamma teach songs to pledges at an Old Spaghetti Factory dinner. Some alumnae have set up a nonprofit foundation in the sorority's name.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

In 1961, for example, then-sorority president Lucas Tilton Matsumoto, Barbara Kong Takeshita, Gwen Kim and Aileen Kong Shin spearheaded the move to open BBG membership to nationalities other than Korean. "We were the first to break out of the ethnic sororities," said Donna Saito Hoshide, a 1963 pledge.

More than three decades later, many of them were involved in another unprecedented move. What started out as a call for help ended with the sorority's alumnae establishing a charitable foundation.

Despite its tradition, the sorority's active membership was so low in 1994 that BBG considered folding. A letter was sent to alumnae that year, asking any sister who cared about the sorority to show up for a meeting.

Hoshide was among 30 alumnae from O'ahu who attended. "The alumnae group committed help and devoted two years of personal time to assist the sorority in growth and development on the UH-Manoa campus," she said.

The alumnae organized a recruiting effort, contacting high school counselors for prospects. Of the 11 pledges in 1995, seven joined the sorority, Hoshide said. "It's the only sorority I know of that maintains contact with our school," said Francis "Bobo" Claveria, a Waipahu High counselor and Hoshide's Hilo High classmate. "They are very community oriented."

The effort, however, did not stop there. To celebrate BBG's 50th anniversary in 1998, the alumnae set up a charitable fund under the Hawai'i Community Foundation. The following year, the group established its own nonprofit foundation to preserve its legacy through community service. The Internal Revenue Service granted tax-exempt status to the BBG Foundation in May 2000.

"Working on projects together has brought different decades of sisters together," said Hoshide, president and a founding member of the BBG Foundation. "Through the process, we're not only bonding but developing a network."

The idea for a foundation came out of discussion over coffee between Hoshide, Janice Kim, Diana Tung and then-sorority president Miho Nakao. "The initial feeling was that we wanted to do something charitable for one of our sisters who had died of cancer," Hoshide said.

Donna Saito Hoshide was one of the founders of sorority foundations.
More than $10,000 raised between 1998 and 1999 from private donations, two golf tournaments and two Halloween dances went to "Hanohano Hukilau," an American Cancer Society project to promote breast cancer awareness; a two-semester sorority scholarship, which was awarded to Holly Suyama, and into an endowment fund. This year, the foundation raised more than $17,000 and sponsored O Ka Mana Ka Ho'ola, a wellness weekend pilot project on the Big Island to assist women living with cancer, and set aside money for grants to RESOLVE of Hawai'i, a support program for families experiencing infertility, and a second sorority scholarship, which was awarded to Kay Terada.

In addition to fellowship, the sorority's focus is on leadership and career development, said Hoshide, who serves on the foundation's board with Lorene Godfrey, Ramona Ahn Hinck, Kalene Shim Sakamoto, Judy Hasegawa Saranchock, Aileen Kong Shin and Lynne Ushijima Unemori.

Nineteen-year-old UH-Manoa sophomore Sandra Kim, a McKinley High grad and a product of BBG's alumnae recruitment, believes the foundation represents the essence of BBG's spirit. "It's a case of not looking at what's going on in themselves but in the community," Kim said of the alumnae effort. "They're trying to develop a sense of looking ahead beyond the immediate future."

Among the more than 300 alumnae on the BBG mailing list are Donna Tanoue, former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.; Coralie Chun Matayoshi, executive director of the Hawai'i Bar Association; Jackie Young, former state representative and the American Cancer Society's director of marketing and volunteer services; Circuit Judge Karen Ahn and Dicksie Park Tamanaha, development director of the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa, Calif.

"We get a chance to meet the older sisters and because of their success, we look at them as role models," said Suyama, 19, a sophomore and 'Aiea High graduate.

Active membership stands at 12, six of whom are pledges. The sorority recently elected second-generation BBG Kelley Lam as president. Lam is the daughter of 1963 pledge Alice Shibata Lam.

Reach Rod Ohira at 535-8181 or rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.