Eguchi family gets keys to Kekaha home

KEKAHA — Marian Eguchi was tired and relieved at the same time Friday as the Kekaha sun rapidly warmed the area filled with well-wishers.

“I just couldn’t sleep last night, taking care of all the little things,” Eguchi said. “This is a challenge, but it’s OK since it is our own home. I feel fortunate to be able to get this home, and the timing is right, too.”

Milani Pimental of the Kauai Habitat for Humanity said the “little things” Eguchi spoke is a reflection of the sweat equity required by homeowners as down payment for their homes.

“This is not a handout,” Pimental said. “This is a hand-up. The Eguchi family has more than 900 hours in sweat equity, and the final tally is not in as they complete the last final pieces of their home.”

Pimental said Kauai Habitat requires 700 hours of sweat equity as a down payment, the highest amount in the country.

“But in Hawaii, this number appears to be easy to meet as many family members chip in to help get the home off the ground,” Pimental said. “The Eguchi home, No. 115 for Kauai Habitat for Humanity, came in at 2,948 hours before the final tally.”

This was spread out over a period of seven months, the time required to raise the home. The effort was led largely by AmeriCorps volunteer Howie Apilado, Marian and Nelson Eguchi’s son.

Pimental said efforts of the Global Village volunteer program, Capt. Bruce Hay and volunteers from the Pacific Missile Range Facility and Women Build program gave birth to the home.

“When we first got here, it was just an empty lot with a goat tied in the middle,” said Drew Wolenter, a Kauai Habitat carpenter.

Apilado, who will be leaving Monday for an AmeriCorps leadership training conference in Alabama, said that for seven months, he was pretty much “the main guy.”

“I’ve been through some boo-boos,” Apilado said. “I made my share of mistakes, but those good construction people at Habitat corrected me and taught me — a lot. It was this house that made me want to join the AmeriCorps program.”

Apilado said once he, Rita Klofta and Maggie Stryker complete the AmeriCorps conference in Alabama, he’ll be back to help with more Habitat projects.

Shelbie Shimazu, an aspiring laau lapaau student who missed school to participate in the blessing, received an olena plant from Habitat personnel.

“The olena is part of the ginger family,” Shimazu said. “It has a lot of meaning and uses, but it takes a long time for the flower to appear. This means we’ll be here for a while because I want to see the flower.”

Don Baker, a Kauai Habitat homeowner who made the trip from Anahola with Vern Kauanui bringing lei for the Eguchi family and dignitaries, said he is hopeful for the day they would be celebrating their home.

“I hope it’s soon,” Baker said. “I’ve already put in my letter to Santa Claus with my change of address.”

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