Strengthening the community

WAIMEA — Cleaning up the Russian Fort is only one of several community projects done to promote the Westside of the island.

On the second Saturday of every month, a group of about five West Kauai Business and Professional Association members work for four hours, mowing the lawn and keeping the area clean.

“We mow wherever the state doesn’t,” said Eric Nordmeier, president of WKBPA. “One time, a tourist asked us where the fort was, because they couldn’t see the rocks over the vegetation.”

The association started fixing up the fort in 2006. At the time, the entire inside of the fort was covered with trees, Nordmeier said.

The WKBPA was created decades ago to promote and increase business in the community.

“We do a lot,” he said. “There are so many things that can be done, and there’s not enough people to do it.”

The association, which is made up of business owners and other professionals, hosts events that allow the Westside community to get involved in their neighborhoods.

For example, WKBPA hosts the Waimea Lighted Christmas Parade, a 21-year tradition. This year, the association plans to host the Light the Town celebration on the first Saturday of December.

On May 28, WKBPA will host a craft fair in Waimea. The group also runs the Waimea Town Celebration.

In addition to hosting community events, WKBPA also holds regular meetings to inform the public what kinds of programs and opportunities are available to them.

During the meetings, business owners give presentations about who they are and what they sell. Representatives from community outreach programs also highlight upcoming events, said Nordmeier, who grew up on the Westside.

“I like to see the community get involved, and some people may not know what’s out there,” Nordmeier said.

At the April 18 meeting, Lenny Rapozo, director of Parks and Recreation, talked about summer enrichment program, which will take place from June 13 through July 22 at neighborhood centers across the island.

On the Westside, the programs will be held in Kalaheo, Hanapepe and Kekaha. Activities include field trips to county pools and beach parks, arts and crafts and outdoor activities. Registration began last Friday and ends this Friday.

Participants at the April meeting also heard from Superintendent Bill Arkakai and area principals about programs available to students, and the Kauai Police Department talked about community issues.

The next WKBPA meeting will be July 18 at the Waimea Theatre.

The WKBPA is not the only club on the Westside that promotes the community.

The West Kauai Lions hosts Easter egg hunts, vision and hearing testing for elementary school students, and sponsors sports team T-shirts and scholarships, said Charlie Ortiz, zone chairman for West Kauai Lions.

He estimates the club provided over 300 free vision screenings to students from Eleele to Kekaha.

The West Kauai Lions have been offering the free screenings on the Westside for about 30 years.

“It’s part of Helen Keller’s vision, when she approached the (national) Lions Club,” Ortiz said. “We’re knights of the blind.”

If a child needs glasses, the volunteers refer them to an eye doctor and the club pays for the first visit.

The Easter egg hunt is especially popular with the community, Ortiz said. This Easter, the West Kauai Lions Club hid 1,200 eggs all over the Kekaha Ballpark. Over 160 kids and their parents attended.

“By 8:25 a.m., there was 100-plus kids,” he said. “All you see is a swarm of people. Within two minutes, all 1,200 eggs were gone.”

Coloring, filling and hiding the eggs is a lot of work, but it’s worth it to see the kids so happy, Ortiz added.

The Easter egg hunt, which is a 60-year tradition, used to be held in Hanapepe. But because there were several Easter egg hunts in Hanapepe and the surrounding areas and none in Kekaha, the Lions moved it, said Nordmeier, who is also a member of the West Kauai Lions.

West Kauai Lions members also re-paint public bathrooms, volunteer at the Salvation Army soup kitchen and hand out refreshments during Veterans and Memorial day celebrations at the Kauai Veterans Cemetery.

“It’s about doing what’s good. And bringing together the community and strengthening it,” Ortiz said.


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