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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, October 26, 2003

Volunteers make plenty of difference

Yesterday's volunteerism activities at Hokulani Elementary School included laying personalized blocks to serve as stepping stones in a peace garden. From left: Michellei Kalahiki, Chelsea Cagaoan and Ana Snyder, all from the sixth grade.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Yesterday across Hawai'i and the nation, folks rich and poor, young and old — all willing and able — broke into that annual chorus of kindness known as Make A Difference Day.

Hilton Ishimoto, part of a Mormon work detail, packs books to be sent to Okinawa.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

And make a difference they did on this day of national volunteerism sponsored by USA Weekend and the Points of Light Foundation.

Buildings were painted, windows were scrubbed, yards were beautified, trash was bagged, trails were raked, food drives were launched, books were collected and the less fortunate were given a helping hand.

In Hawai'i, the Army alone tackled more than 100 projects throughout the state, according to Capt. Kathleen Turner of the 25th Infantry Division (Light) at Schofield Barracks.

"That comes to around 2,000 soldiers plus family members who were involved," said Turner.

"The projects went real well. Everybody seemed to be having a good time."

And while no one could claim outright ownership of the phrase "good time," the organizers of the Halloween mini-carnival at Palama Settlement came close. Some 400 kids from the Mayor Wright, Ka'ahumanu and Kamehameha Homes housing projects went for the Pumpkin Sack Races, Frankenstein Face Make-Up, and Creepy Crawler Hunt in a big way.

Momiala Benedicktus, with the Prudential Locations Foundation, said the effort began typically enough.

Army Spc. Hector Aviles of the 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment at Schofield Barracks, paints a wall at the lookout point at Punchbowl.

U.S. Army

About a year ago the people at the foundation called Palama Settlement and said they were ready to do whatever they could, from painting the building to sprucing up the playground.

"And they told us, 'We don't have a playground anymore. So what would be more memorable for the children of Palama Settlement would be if you volunteered your time to come give them some activities, games, relay races, things like that.' "

The Prudential Locations Foundation coordinated this year's Make A Difference event along with Prudential Finance and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage. The carnival was a real crowd-pleaser.

The most popular event of the carnival may have been the doughnut eating contest. Each contestant used a different strategy in approaching a doughnut on a string. Shanice Allgood, 11, did a sort of limbo dance up to the doughnut and bit at it rapidly from the bottom up.

Fast as she was, Austin Quach, 8, was even faster. "I just pulled it off the string and ate it," said Austin, who astonished onlookers with his ability to practically inhale a midair sugar doughnut without the use of his hands.

Like Austin, every contestant won a prize — in this case, a colorful set of Halloween fangs.

Participation in Make A Difference Day was estimated at 3 million nationally last year, and thousands of people across the state take part.

Shanice Allgood, 11, tests her skills in a doughnut eating contest at the Palama Settlement carnival, part of yesterday's nationwide activities for Make A Difference Day. Adult volunteers provided fun for children who no longer have a regular playground at Palama Settlement.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Also among them this year were about 110 kids and adults at Hokulani Elementary School in lower St. Louis Heights. They worked up a sweat as part of more than a dozen grounds beautification and classroom cleanup tasks — including planting native species and installing more than four dozen stepping stones in a peace garden.

"This is our second year of Make A Difference Day," said Myrah Kim, parent facilitator for the school. "We've combined it with our beautification project."

Cynthia Wiig, whose son graduated from the school last year, was one of the driving forces behind the 1-foot-square stepping stones, which were planted in a large circle in the grass as part of a class project. Each individualized concrete stone was created by a sixth-grader and bore an artwork in keeping with the school's motto: "Reach for the stars."

"Each stone is different, is based on the child's own experience and represents something that means peace or happiness to the student," said Wiig. "This is a major project, which is why we decided to do it on Make A Difference Day — because we needed the manpower."

Designs included everything from moons to baseball to abstract symbols.

Several blocks away, at the Hawai'i Center for the Deaf and the Blind, about 50 people were busy collecting and boxing some 420 expensive Braille and large-print textbooks to be sent to the Philippines and other developing countries. The project was coordinated by the Kahala ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"It's a very interesting story," said Dr. Laurianne Chun, school librarian. "We get these books from schools all over the country — New York, Indiana, Florida, Illinois — from schools that have bigger budgets than Hawai'i.

"So when they order too many copies and don't need them, they send them to us."

In turn, when the books — some of which cost more than $150 a volume — no longer fit her school's curriculum, Chun passes them along to visually impaired students in places such as Okinawa, Bangladesh and Guam. But it takes many hands to load up and address so many books.

Sydney Freitas, administrator, declared the school's project a success. It was their first Make A Difference project, but from now on "we'll do it annually," she said.

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.

• • •

Shereen Narvaes, with her twins Anakin and Cameron, sits in on a book reading by volunteer Steve Tam at Palama Settlement.

Bruce Asato • The Honolulu Advertiser

Shanice Allgood, 11, tests her skills in a doughnut eating contest at the Palama Settlement carnival, part of yesterday's nationwide activities for Make A Difference Day. Adult volunteers provided fun for children who no longer have a regular playground at Palama Settlement.

Photo courtesy Helemano Plantation