100 volunteers ‘Make a Difference’ at Lydgate

Despite early morning showers, well over 100 volunteers participated in yesterday’s Make a Difference Day event at Lydgate Park. Even with heavy rain drops, smiles did not falter as volunteers of all ages nestled trees into the ground at the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Sports Park and spread fresh wood chips across the Kamalani Playground.

National Make a Difference Day is the largest event of its kind — a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors, which, in the spirit of aloha, is no stranger to Kaua‘i. In fact, the average Kaua‘i household donates approximately $1,100 every year, 27 percent more than the national average.

“I’m here to help make a difference, of course,” said Matthew Kopey of Kapa’a, one of the eager participants from yesterday‘s activities. “I’m here to help in whatever way I can.”

Not only did the local community decide to wake up early to participate, visitors to the island were also offered their time. Glenn and Linda Hammond, from Minnesota, spent their morning raking wood fibers.

“It’s a way to give back to the community,” Linda Hammond said. “We’ll have so much more to take back with us.”

Organizations were also on hand to help — East Kauai Y’s Men’s Club greeted everyone with smiles, Friends of Bernard Carvalho contributed to the lunch, and Starbucks supplied fresh coffee to motivate the blurry-eyed into action.

Such events are not new to The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park. What once was an overgrown jungle has since become a role model for beach parks over the years, thanks to the island’s teamwork and the leadership of Councilman Tim Bynum, who originally founded the project.

“This is one of the tightest communities in the country. We get things done because we know how to work together,” Bynum said.

Shortly after Hurricane ‘Iniki, 7,000 volunteers built the Lydgate Park playground in just 14 days. Children from across contributed ideas for the playground and are reflected in the structure’s imaginary lava tube slide and giant spider web.

The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Sports Park is one of the park’s newer projects, with three full-sized sports fields near completion. The final touches are being made possible by the National Make a Difference Day event.

Native trees and an environmentally friendly subterranean drip irrigation system are all part of the effort put forth into this latest project, which will hopefully soon be used for soccer and football games.

Of the many trees planted yesterday in the sports park, 17 were donated by EZ to Use Your Island Pages on behalf of the 17 schools that participated in its phone book recycling program. Children created signs for the trees representing each of their schools, and were there yesterday morning to help plant Madagascar Olives, Loulu Palms, Beach Heliotropes and Kou Trees.

“Community efforts helps build community with volunteers,” Doug Haigh, Public Works building division chief, said.

Haigh has been pleased with the turnout of volunteers over the many years and is enthusiastic that The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park still generate such a large gathering of those wishing to help.

Thomas Noyes, general coordinator of The Friends of Kamalani and Lydgate Park, led the entire event yesterday and has been affiliated with the project since its inception.

Ongoing projects at the park include beach grooming on the first Saturday of the month; sweeps of Ke Ala Hele Makaloa (The Path that Goes by the Coast) take place on the second Saturday. In addition, the second phase of tree planting for the Harry and Jeanette Sports Park is set to occur this spring.

For more information, visit www.kamalani.org

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