Community service is 'a way of life' for Janis Loo
by Suzanne Roig
Advertiser Staff Writer
Giving is not just something that Janis Loo talks about — it's a way of life.
A lifetime of giving was capped in 2002 when Loo, inspired by another woman, decided to give a kidney to the next matching person on the donor list.
That's in addition to Loo's volunteer work at the Hawaiian Humane Society and other charity groups.
Loo's inspiring story of service also extends to her husband and five children.
When her family goes on vacation, they travel to far-flung places like Africa and South America to help build orphanages and water purification systems.
When a neighbor is sick, Loo is at their door with a plate of food.
Despite already having three children, Loo and her husband adopted two 12-year-old girls from China because she had heard that was the cut-off age at Chinese orphanages.
Yet Loo says none of what she does is special.
"I really don't think I have gone over and beyond," said Loo, 55. "I just feel very blessed. I have a very good life and I want to give back to others."
Loo is among the four women and one man chosen as 2010 state recipients of the Jefferson Awards For Public Service. One of the five will be selected Friday to represent Hawai'i at a national ceremony in June in Washington, D.C.
The other Hawai'i recipients are Irene Takeshita, Colleen Minami, Benedicto Galindo and Bonnie Holcombe.
"Community service has been a lifestyle," Loo said. "It's a way of life for us. I hope that by being an example, our children will learn to give back."
It's that attitude that captured Julie Ford's attention when Loo called the National Kidney Foundation of Hawaii, where Ford worked. Loo wanted to inquire about giving a kidney to a stranger.
The kidney that Loo ultimately donated went to Dung Vo, a Honolulu resident who was then able to finish his education and went on to help the state's elderly, Ford wrote in her nomination of Loo.
From that donation, a friendship grew between Loo and Ford. The more Ford got to know Loo, the more Ford admired her.
"Without Janis' gift, Dung's life would have been very different than it is today," Ford said.
Loo "is an incredible person," Ford said. "People need to know that right here in our community there are unsung heroes every day."
The Jefferson Awards For Public Service are given each year to ordinary people who do extraordinary things for the community. The awards are sponsored by The Honolulu Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.
This is the fourth of five profiles. See an interview with award winner Janis Loo on today's 5:30 and 10 p.m. Hawaii News Now broadcasts on KGMB and KHNL.