Volunteers help volunteers celebrate

LIHU’E — There was no shortage of volunteers to help volunteers celebrate Sunday.

A battery of tables was manned with reinforcements waiting to fill in as organizers for the Pu’uwai Aloha, volunteer-appreciation event, prepared to welcome the approximately 10,000 volunteers who were invited to take part in the event honoring and celebrating the island’s volunteers.

However, despite the gates opening at 3 p.m., the majority of volunteers started showing up just before 5 p.m., when Raiatea Helm, the first of the performers, was scheduled to start.

Organizers said that a lot of volunteers are seniors, and since no bus transportation was being provided for the event, they loosened the criteria and allowed spouses to attend, since a lot of the senior volunteers were women whose husbands could drive them to the event.

Additionally, the question of how to get volunteers to help facilitate an event of this magnitude was answered, as members of the organizing committee evolved to become volunteers themselves.

The spirit of volunteerism abounded, and periods of responsibility were kept short so volunteers could enjoy the afternoon and evening with other volunteers.

Art Umezu, one of the organizers, noted that Pu’uwai Aloha coincided with the first day of National Volunteer Week, and Kaua’i Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste wanted to be part of this national event honoring and celebrating volunteers and their contributions.

“The citizens of Kaua’i are truly blessed by your dedication and commitment to giving back to our community,” he told the growing body of people during his opening remarks.

“Your selfless deeds have contributed to a culture of compassion, and strengthened our island community. It is my sincere hope that you will take with you a renewed sense of the important role that volunteerism plays in our daily lives,” Baptiste said to the crowd, estimated to be around 1,00 strong.

“I give you my sincerest mahalo for all that you’ve done, and for what you will do. You are the essence of Kaua’i.”

The evening was capped with a special song penned by Umezu for the event: “Pu’uwai Aloha — A Giving Heart.”

Entertainers included Raiatea Helm; Christie Parongao, a Wai’anae resident by way of Waimea and Kapa’a as described by Umezu; Maunalua; Andy Bumatai; Robi Kahakalau; and The Makaha Sons.

Major sponsors for the event included Kawailoa Development, King Auto Center, Kukui’ula Development, and Princeville Resort Group.

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