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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 20, 2003

Volunteers spruce up 5 public schools

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Matthew Muramatsu, 16, of Boy Scouts Troop 264 in Mililani, cleans classroom desks at Mililani Uka Elementary School. The Hawaii 3R's program coordinated repair projects at five O'ahu public schools.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Teams of volunteers spent the past two weeks working up a sweat at five O'ahu public schools, and in the process saved the state close to a half-million dollars, according to the director of program coordinating the effort.

Working through the Hawaii 3R's program, volunteer work crews completed an estimated $442,000 worth of repair projects yesterday at Mililani Waena Elementary, Salt Lake Elementary, Mililani Uka Elementary, Waipahu Intermediate and Jefferson Elementary schools, said Ann-Maile Yamasaki, Hawaii 3R's executive director.

Officials at the schools were unstinting in their praise for the volunteers.

"They went beyond our expectations," said Kawai Tao, vice principal of Waipahu Intermediate, who marveled at the level of enthusiasm generated by 45 volunteers from Hawaiian Electric Co.

"I'd walk into a classroom and they're up on chairs cleaning the louvers, and cleaning the gecko doo-doo off the top of the bulletin boards — anything they could clean, got cleaned.

"Initially, we just wanted them to paint the bleachers blue. But when they got finished, they kept going around campus painting anything blue. That was the 'Blue Crew.' They went through 10 gallons of paint," Tao said.

Meanwhile, other volunteers were painting the interiors of two school buildings and the exterior of a third.




Bill Bonnet, who coordinated the volunteer efforts for HECO, said so many company workers raised their hands to help out that some were turned down.

"This was the first time we'd done this, so we didn't know how many we'd need," said a paint-covered Bonnet, who worked with the Graffiti Crew yesterday. "We'll never make that mistake again."

3R's, which stands for Repair, Remodel and Restore Hawai'i's Public Schools, was initiated in 2001 by U.S. Sen. Dan Inouye, D-Hawai'i, as a way to cope with the state's whopping school repair backlog. That backlog was once estimated at $640 million, but state efforts have reduced it to $450 million.

The program gets federal and state financing, as well as money from private organizations. Yamasaki said the program in turn awards grants to public schools that generate private contributions and volunteer efforts equal to or greater than the value of the amount of the grant.

In this way 3R's hopes to at least put a dent in the backlog.

For example, Yamasaki said Waipahu Intermediate got a grant of $49,700. The value of work done on the school's three buildings during the past two weeks was estimated at $135,000. Thus, subtracting the grant amount from the work estimate, the total no-cost benefit to the school comes to $85,300.

"And that's actually a low estimate," Yamasaki said. "Because these volunteers did a lot of extra work."

Last week at Mililani Uka Elementary School, a dozen Troop 264 Boy Scouts and 35 volunteers from the Army's Schofield Barracks Wolfhounds removed furnishings and equipment from five portable classrooms so they could be recarpeted. Yesterday, with the recarpeting work finished, the Scouts and Wolfhounds put the stuff back.

"We couldn't have done this without a cooperative effort," said Diana Bonsignore, Mililani Uka vice principal. "What we're doing here today is called 'sweat equity.' "

Bonsignore likened the community effort to old-fashioned barn-building, with an added plus.

"This benefits our state trades people, such as the people who got paid to put in the carpets," she said.

Part of the grant money goes to pay professional contractors who make certain the work is done according to standards.

There were other extras. For Matthew Muramatsu, 16, who coordinated the Mililani Uka effort along with Charlene Ohta, Mililani Complex Administrative Services Assistant, 3R's provided a way of reaching the ultimate Scouting achievement.

"This is for my final project," he said. "It's the last thing I need to become an Eagle Scout."