The first thing you notice when you walk into a room with Cheri Richards is her loud, infectious laugh.
“Working with Cheri is like working with your favorite Aunty,” says Terry Nakamura, Ka Paʻalana’s Program Manager. “She’s no-nonsense, has a huge heart, works super hard, and always has your back.”
‘Aunty’ Cheri has been with Partners in Development Foundation for over a decade. She started as a teacher’s assistant at the Tūtū and Me Traveling Preschool before moving over to our Ka Paʻalana Homeless Family Education Program, working up the ranks to be the Family Education Coordinator for the Kakaʻako Family Assessment Center site.
“I really enjoy Ka Paʻalana because of the people I work with and the families that I serve,” she says. “I like that we are a family here and I get to help and serve… It’s not a job, it’s just helping others.”
Numerous staff cite Cheri’s absolute dedication to the Ka Paʻalana program and her unwavering love and affection for the families. She takes the time to make sure that they have enough to eat and clothes to wear, even picking up donations before reporting to work.
She goes above and beyond at her job in a number of ways, says former Outreach Assistant Arbab Khan. Arbab worked with Cheri at Ka Paʻalana for over two years, and he got to know her as a passionate and determined person who “becomes invested in the lives of those around her.”
June “Pua” Aquino is a Preschool Teacher and Cultural Curriculum Specialist with the Ka Paʻalana program. Pua says Cheri is one of the best preschool teachers she’s ever witnessed in action.
“No matter what site… she always loves all of the kids and shows them her love by giving them great big hugs and helping them in any way she can.”
Cheri doesn’t see her work with the families as a job. She says seeing the families succeed – getting their own homes, finding jobs, etc. – and seeing the keiki be successful in school is what excites her. “That’s my biggest joy.”
Ka Paʻalana staff call Cheri the heart of her team, leading with joy, aloha, and of course, humor. Go into the Ka Paʻalana office and you’ll find a poster of Cheri-isms, pidgin words or phrases she uses like “bobolani”: a nice way to say that you’re stupid (“nice because it ends with -lani”).
“I love Cheri,” Terry says. “She inspires me to want to be a better person. She cracks me up, and is such a wonderful person.”
A humble person, Aunty Cheri consistently gives her all to her staff, supervisors and Ka Paʻalana program families without ever expecting any recognition in return. While being asked questions about herself and her work, she made sure to stop and thank her team.
“I want to thank all my staff for supporting me and allowing me to be me,” she says. “For allowing me to try and help them become teachers, and assessment [specialists], and parent educators, and allowing me to help support them in their roles.”
Mahalo nui loa, Aunty Cheri, for all that you do!
Na Makamae is our monthly segment where we recognize employees who are doing tremendous work with the children and families they serve. ‘Na Makamae’ refers to those who are prized, highly valued, highly appreciated. Na Makamae are those who are endeared to us.