Volunteers ready to fix schools
By Kawehi Haug
Advertiser Staff Writer
Public schools that receive federal grants for fix-up projects now have more manpower to put the money to work.
There has been a surge in community volunteers for the Hawai'i 3R's program, which yesterday gave out $690,000 to 17 schools for repair and renovation projects, said 3R's executive director Ann-Maile Yamasaki.
"Communities are really making the effort to help their schools," Yamasaki said. "This time, we're not having to go out and solicit the community for help, people are coming to us and asking how they can help."
The $690,000 is largely for materials and supplies. The volunteer labor will mean $1.55 million worth of repairs can be done, officials said.
A ceremony yesterday at Queen Ka'ahumanu Elementary School marked the seventh time that grants have been awarded in the Hawai'i 3R's program.
"This year in particular, people have made a real effort to help out," said Bruce Coppa, Hawai'i 3R's chairman. "The first year people were reluctant to get sweaty."
Coppa, director of Pacific Resources Partnership, said the program is successful only when the community is willing to "dig holes and paint walls."
Yamasaki said the increase in volunteers has largely come from corporations and local businesses, whose employees volunteer to spend a Saturday morning fixing things up at their local schools.
The schools also are doing their part to make the program a success. Duwayne Abe, principal of Salt Lake Elementary, which received $57,200 to repaint the school's exterior, said recruiting 50 volunteers to help paint the school was the least he could do.
"The Hawai'i 3R's program is giving us the means and we can't say that we won't meet them halfway," Abe said. "They've worked hard for us and we need to do our share."
During the ceremony yesterday, Sen. Dan Inouye unveiled a new, 30-second television public service announcement designed to encourage more public participation in the program.
The announcement, in which Inouye urges people to help end the "shameful state" of Hawai'i's public schools, will air beginning July 1.
Also yesterday, Inouye participated in Ready To Learn's annual school supply drive. Inouye received corporate and employee drive contributions and participated in the collection and distribution of school supplies.