By Char Ravelo

Milani Pimental

Carrying the torch for affordable housing on Kauaʻi.

Milani Pimental, Leadership Kauaʻi Class of 2009, has been with Kaua‘i Habitat for Humanity since 2010, and happily says it is the “best job ever!” Who says it these days? Individuals who have found the balance of purposeful giving and a deep satisfication of knowing the hard work is a life-changing opportunity for another.

Here is a snapshot Milani’s journey of service for others that led up to the tremendous role she has today.

Milani was born on Kauaʻi, then moved to the Mainland as a youngster. Volunteerism began in the 7th grade as a candy striper, and continued throughout high school in the Interact Club with local Rotaries and other service clubs.

While at Loyola University in Chicago, she had the opportunity to coordinate service projects and volunteered at Windy City Habitat for Humanity where she learned to drywall and work with homebuyer families. She also helped United Blood Services plan blood drives on campus. A human resources intership at the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority led to a lead role in a project that impacted all employees from trainees to executives. These experiences brought valuable lessons that help form her base of understanding in the work world and leadership in general.

After college, she moved back to Kauaʻi to see her family, and planned to stay for only a year. About three years later, she landed a wonderful job as support staff for a nonprofit organization whose mission was focused on plant conservation, science and education. She learned from as many colleagues as possible and got to work. With great mentors and role models who saw her potential, she was promoted and ended her tenure as the director of annual giving.

Kauaʻi is lucky Milani and her family stayed longer than a year. They were able to build their home through the Self-Help Housing Corporation, a program that provides affordable housing and guides low-income families to help each other to build their own houses.

When asked what gets her up in the morning, Milani said, “On a cold day in Kalaheo, it’s a little tough, LOL. But seriously what gets me up in the morning is knowing that there is much to be done in the world of affordable housing, and that I’m happy to be alive and able to put my skills to work so that others can benefit just as my family and I have benefited from being affordable homeowners and giving back through service.”

Leading a nonprofit that deals with the Kauai’s toughest issue is not an easy job.

“Well, I have a job to do, people that I’m responsible for and responsible to, and things need to get done. What inspires me is knowing the great feeling of and envisioning more people getting into affordable homeownership, as I was able to do back in 2001,” she said.

There will always be hiccups in any leadership journey, Milani said, adding she had to learn to manage emotions as she came up as a leader.

“I understood there is a human/compassionate way of looking at operations and decision-making and also the business side has to be considered as well. I’ve been laid off, I’ve had hours cut. I came into leadership roles at points where I thought I’d have more time to adjust and train up into those roles. What I’ve learned is to expect the unexpected and know how to think smartly and pivot accordingly,” she said.

As we move forward, she hopes we can see “communities fo opportunity,” where residents have access to the things vital to their lives and enable them to thrive as a community. In these areas, you would also see housing continuums that offer an array of housing types to serve the broad range of our community’s residents. In a good continuum you’ll have a mix consisting of transitional housing, affordable rentals, affordable ownership, even some market rate rentals and ownership.

Milani would like to ask other to really consider lending their time and talents to projects and initiatives that are returning a tangible benefit to our community.

“As a leader, it’s my obligation to use my skills to help create lasting impact. I do this through my work, I also try to achieve this through service with other organizations. Keeping this top of mind helps me to feel fulfilled,” she said.

Another ask, Milani said, is to call on yourself and others to help “model the way” as learning modules at Leadership Kauaʻi teach.

“It’s often hard to do, but worthwhile when you see your staff and colleagues exhibiting positive behaviors that keep your organization moving forward in a positive direction,” she said.

Milani’s favorite quote is, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it,” by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Visit Kaua’i Habitat for Humanity at for opportunities to volunteer or donate.

  • Char Ravelo is the Executive Director of Leadership Kaua‘i, and can be contacted at or (808) 246-8727.


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