Board Of Directors

 “Individually and collectively, our board members bring a wide range of experience and expertise necessary to keep our organization functioning.”

Julie Hong is an Operations Director in Jacobs’ Federal & Environmental Solutions (F&ES) group in Honolulu and oversees the growth and integration strategy of the infrastructure business in the Indo-Pacific region. Ms. Hong has 27 years of experience providing infrastructure planning, environmental planning, and project management support for various Department of Defense and government agencies including Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and EPA.

Under the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI) Planning Group Infrastructure and Enterprise Planning Services contracts, Julie provided National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) support and oversight of facilities management and engineering staff to the Marine Corps Activity Guam (MCAG), Okinawa Consolidation (OKICON), and Futenma Replacement Facility (FRF) programs.

She has a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Science and Art History from the University of Virginia and  a Master of Science in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University.

Julie is an Executive Board Member of the Women in Renewable Energy (WiRE), which provides a platform for clean energy and climate change issues in Hawaii. For the last 5 years, Julie led the planning and execution of the Society of American Military Engineers (SAME) Pacific Industry Forum.

Robin currently serves as Brand Ambassador for Black Bear Diners, a restaurant franchise company operating 150 diners across the mainland US. He has been with BBD for 25 years, working closely with its founders, as their financial and strategic planning officer, to take the concept from a small -town operation in Mt. Shasta, California, to a nationally-recognized restaurant brand. Robin currently serves on Saint Louis School’s Board of Trustees as Chairperson of its Education Programs, previously serving as its Board Chairperson. Robin has provided service on a number of charitable organization boards for over 30 years. Robin is passionate about the mission of Ho’ōla Nā Pua and for the past two years has been supporting it through philanthropic support, programming connections, awareness, and advocacy.

Keith Winnacott is an accounting and finance professional with over 20 years of public accounting, consulting, and industry experience in financial services and healthcare sector. Keith graduated from the University of Maryland and obtained his Certified Public Accountant license. He spent the majority of his career in Washington DC, before relocating to Honolulu in 2018. Most recently Keith has worked as the Director of Accounting & Reporting for Maui Health.

Sonya Gomes is a Senior Vice President and Division Manager overseeing Loan & Deposit Operations at Central Pacific Bank. With a recognized career spanning 25 years in the banking industry, Sonya has acquired extensive expertise through a diverse array of roles. She embarked on her journey in banking with Bank of America N.A., Overseas Division, where she seamlessly transitioned through positions including teller, loan officer, customer service representative, and branch manager.

Sonya is a graduate of the University of Phoenix, having earned both a Bachelor of Business Administration and a Master of Business Administration, a testament to her commitment to continuous learning and professional development. Her dynamic leadership and comprehensive understanding of banking operations make her an invaluable asset to Central Pacific Bank, driving innovation and excellence in every facet of her role.

Head shot of Gomes, in a pink blouse.

Chris currently serves as an executive coach and consultant to leaders and organizations in the mental health
field. Chris has been serving and leading in the mental health space for 31 years in a variety of roles to include division
president, regional vice president, CEO of an acute hospital, and executive director of multiple programs across the
continuum of care. Chris is most passionate about leading and mentoring individuals and teams to improve
performance and outcomes via industry-leading human performance frameworks.

Jacquie Laird has been volunteering with Ho’ōla Nā Pua for the past five years. She has helped support fundraising initiatives for the gala committee, paniolo picnic, programming at Pearl Haven, as well as Ho’ōla Nā Pua’s community advocacy and awareness events on Oahu and Hawai`i island. Jacquie has a background in retail management and merchandise procurement for six retail stores. She has a background in holistic wellness and has hosted and facilitated wellness retreats for people from across the mainland. She has worked extensively in helping to provide a feeding program for the homeless in Waimanalo and at Ala Moana Beach Park. Jacquie is well connected in the community in the areas of program development, fund development and philanthropy, along with having a passion to serve HNP and widely promote and advocate for the collective shared mission to ensure youth have a bright future. 

Melissa Jackson is on the board of the Zilber Family Foundation, which supports nonprofit organizations that work to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and neighborhoods. The foundation’s work is close to her heart, and led her to be involved with several nonprofit organizations. She is on the governing board of Adventist Health Castle, where she helped establish the hospital’s best-in-class birthing center. She is a member of the development committee for Make-A-Wish Hawaii and the capital campaign committee for Ho`ola Na Pua’s Pearl Haven campus. She has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, is the mother of four young children, and an active school parent.

Sondra Leiggi Brandon is the VP of Patient Care, Behavioral Health. Sondra is responsible for developing and implementing business and strategic plans for behavioral health services and programs across the continuum of care. Sondra is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and Psychiatric/Mental Health Nurse Practitioner. She has Master’s degrees in Nursing from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and Johns Hopkins University. She also has a Master’s degree in Public Health from Loma Linda University. Sondra is an Omidyar fellow and was recently recognized as one of Hawaii Business Magazine’s “20 for the Next 20.” 

Board Emeritus

Karen is a graduate of the College of William and Mary.  Her long career in the field of opera, began at Virginia Opera directly after graduating from college.  Two short years later, she became the Director of Production for Opera Memphis.  She was in Memphis for seven years, ending her tenure as the Executive Director. 

When she left Memphis, she became the General Director of Opera Festival of New Jersey, the youngest General Director in the opera field, followed by the role of Managing Director of Music Theatre Group in Manhattan.  During those years she served as both a frequent panelist and onsite evaluator for the National Endowment for the Arts and a board member and board consultant for Opera America, the service organization for companies in the US and Canada.  

In 2004, Karen moved to Honolulu and became the Executive Director of Hawaii Opera Theatre (HOT).  She served as executive director for over nine years.  During her tenure, she balanced the budget, re-organized the board, revitalized the development department, and achieved a 4-Star rating on Charity Navigator.  She created and executed the implementation of a new strategic plan, which included the sale of outdated property and the renovation of their new location on Beretania Street.  

Throughout her time at HOT, she directed several critically acclaimed HOT productions including:  Susannah, Jun Kaneko’s Madama Butterfly, The Pearl Fishers, and the 2013 production of Turandot.  Other notable productions in her career include; Sweeney Todd at HOT, The Turn of the Screw at Opera Memphis and Orpheo et Euridice at OFNJ.  She directed Three Decembers for HOT with Frederica von Stade, which led to two more opportunities to work with the grand dame of opera at both Livermoor Opera and San Diego Opera.  She continues to work as a stage director in Hawaii and beyond.

In April of 2018, HOT asked Karen to serve as the interim General Director while a search was on for a permanent replacement.  She served the organization with pro bono work for about a year, until the replacement was found.  Throughout her career, Karen has often worked with other non-profits as a volunteer and board member.  

In recent years she served on the national board of the Joyful Heart Foundation, the board of the Rehabilitation Hospital of the Pacific and a volunteer to the event committees for the Hawaii Humane Society, Hanahau’oli School, and event chair of Kama’aina Christmas at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

Currently, Karen serves as a trustee for the Kapiolani Hospital Foundation in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she also sits on the Pediatric Heart Center Capital Campaign.  She is also a member of the capital campaign committee for Ho’ola Na Pua’s Pearl Haven, a residential facility on the North Shore of Oahu for exploited girls.  She is in her final term as commissioner at large for the Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.  

Karen is a proud mother to two wonderful children, Sophia and Eli.  

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