‘Lofty’ road warriors help preschools

LIHU‘E — The group worked in silence for the most part, intent on the project at hand at the ‘Ae Kamali‘i Preschool on Kress Street in Lihu‘e.

Among the group, Maria Moreno, operations manager of Events in Paradise on Maui, said the group represented the combined sales awards program for three divisions of Optum, part of United Health Group, one of the largest medical insurance, data storage and drug prescription companies in the United States.

Moreno, who said she handles corporate groups which come to Hawai‘i for incentive trips, said the sales awards program participants, operating under the Altus Awards Program, asked if they could do a community service project while on Kaua‘i.

On Wednesday, 55 members of the group divided up into three groups to work at three preschools on Kaua‘i with the task of building raised garden beds and other projects which need attention at the schools.

Groups dispersed to take care of work at the ‘Ae Kamali‘i Preschool in Lihu‘e, the Head Start preschool in Koloa and the Koloa Early School, the sites being recommended by Tiana Kamen of the Farm to Preschool project.

“We do community service projects each year,” said Heather Disesa of Ashland, Virginia at the ‘Ae Kamali‘i site where she and a small group were replacing fiberboard storage cabinets with more durable and weatherproof resin cabinets where the preschool’s garden supplies are stored.

“The idea is to leave the community better than when we arrived,” Disesa said. “We buy what we need to complete the projects and when we leave, we leave everything.”

Penny Taketa, the ‘Ae Kamali‘i preschool director, said the task involved replacing a steel storage cabinet which was going to be “recycled” when it is reused at another site through the coordination of Malama Kaua‘i who was working with the volunteers.

“They brought us dirt,” Taketa said. “The old steel storage shed is going to have a new life somewhere else. This is recycling. This is terrific.”

The steel storage cabinet was upgraded to a resin one for storage of the preschool’s outdoor equipment such as tricycles and outdoor play equipment.

The group also built a new garden bed to supplement the beds already in place as well as replaced the fiberboard storage cabinets.

“This preschool is very advanced in gardening,” Disesa said. “We’ve seen some where they are just starting, but this school has its program well established.”

To cap off the morning of volunteerism, Taketa said the group would also spend some time with the preschool students.

Moreno said Altus means “lofty” in Latin. The program has been at The Westin Dawn Beach in St. Maarten, The Breakers in Palm Beach, Florida and Secrets Maroma Resort in the Riviera Maya.

“This is the first time the program has come to Hawai‘i,” Moreno said.

She said the Altus Awards Program is designed to be a very upscale reward experience for the best of the best in sales and an opportunity for these award winners to spend time with the top executives in their respective companies.


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