Friday, December 21, 2001

Leonard Tam, Ginny Meade and John Cater stood last night under the 40-foot-high Puu o Kaimuki Christmas tree. Tam, of the Kaimuki Neighborhood Board and Greater East Honolulu Community Alliance, led efforts this year to restore the annual display.

Activist’s efforts
save Kaimuki’s
holiday tree

Leonard Tam enlists the community's
help to restore the display

By Rosemarie Bernardo

As marching bands and floats filled Waialae Avenue two weeks ago for the 54th Kaimuki Christmas Parade, many parade-goers wondered what happened to a 40-foot lighted Christmas tree display atop an East Kaimuki hill -- a holiday fixture that typically can be seen far and wide.

"A lot of people expected it to be up," said community activist Leonard Tam.

Luckily for them, Tam was already on the job. On Nov. 28 he had learned that the annual lighting ceremony was not scheduled this year because materials used in the display had deteriorated.

The next day, he e-mailed the director of the East Honolulu office of the city Parks & Recreation Department and learned materials were needed to replace worn-down parts for the display, which is made of a 40-foot flagpole, metal spokes, cables and 16 strands of green lights in the shape of a tree.

Community activist Leonard Tam's efforts to restore the Puu o Kaimuki Christmas tree paid off Monday when the display was lit. Tam showed off his work last night.

"I was disappointed it wasn't going up," Tam said. "I wanted to at least try something to get it up."

Tam contacted city departments and the Kaimuki Business & Professional Association for the manpower and funds to make the display possible. The association spent up to $300 for steel cables, electrical wires and 16 50-foot strands of lights, said Randall Ikawa, chairman of the association's Christmas Committee.

Tam's efforts paid off on Monday when crew members from the city Department of Parks & Recreation's Urban Forestry Division and the Department of Facility Maintenance hung strands of green lights from a flagpole to create the Puu o Kaimuki Christmas Tree.

The lights were turned on that night.

For more than 15 years, the lighting ceremony at Puu o Kaimuki Mini Park, behind the Kaimuki Fire Station, has been a community tradition, said Tam, a Kaimuki Neighborhood Board member. Normally, the tree-lighting ceremony takes place on the first Thursday of December.

State Rep. Mindy Jaffe said she received a dozen calls from constituents wondering what happened to the display.

"I was really surprised. It really meant a lot to people," said Jaffe (R, Diamond Head-Kaimuki-Kapahulu-Waikiki). "It's our little landmark for Christmastime."

Community members commended Tam's efforts.

"He took the ball and ran with it," said Ginny Meade, member of the East Honolulu Community Alliance.

"All these years, it's just been there. Apparently when it wasn't there, a lot of people did notice."

E-mail to City Desk

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