View from the Pew
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
More than 100 employees of MC&A Inc. descended on Project Dana's tiny gingerbread house and yard Thursday in the University area to paint and clean it up. Melissa Huerbana, bottom, caught goodie baskets for seniors.
MC&A’S 100 elves (menehune?) do good works in Moiliili
We hear from the good-deed doers at this time of the year, and their universal song is give, share what we have with people who have less.
It's easy to chime in with a fistful of coins in the kettle, some canned goods to a food drive or a check to the Christmas fund and feel satisfied that we've helped the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the forgotten. That sort of giving is like a hum, a kinda smug sound of relief that those do-good groups are out there covering the bases, making it easy for us.
What happened this week at Project Dana headquarters was more of a hallelujah chorus.
On Thursday more than 100 employees of MC&A Inc. swarmed over the little wooden house in Moiliili like ants on a Christmas cookie. They tore out termite-eaten latticework, replaced screens in every window and door, raised new rain gutters and painted virtually every surface and wall inside and out. They dug out old shrubs and weeds, spread new topsoil and planted grass. They hauled away a flatbed truckload of rotten wood, broken-down furniture and stuff that accumulated in closets and a storage shed since 1992.
They brought in 50 gift baskets of paper goods and other practical items to be distributed to the frail and homebound seniors who are the clients of Project Dana.
In a day of labor, sweat and laughter, the MC&A work force turned the tables on the nonprofit group. The good-deed doers were on the receiving end.
"It's such a gift," said Rose Nakamura, director of Project Dana, palms together in "gassho," a gesture of gratitude. It was an expression she repeated often through the afternoon to Chris Resich and Mary Beth Kahn, owners of the company, and the swarm of company associates clad in "Fix It Up" T-shirts.
Unseen behind Nakamura, like that television commercial depicting a vast electronic network, were the 750 volunteers who provide day-to-day personal support to 1,000 frail seniors on four islands. Volunteers visit the homebound, provide rides to medical appointments and help with grocery shopping and light housekeeping. They offer respite for caregivers and home safety assessments.
Project Dana began 18 years ago as a program at Moiliili Hongwanji Mission. It has been adopted by 31 churches and temples of a variety of religious affiliations.
The minimakeover of the 75-year-old house on Nakookoo Street is this year's company community service project, Resich said. Last year they cleaned and painted the Palama Settlement pool and recreation area and organized the children's Christmas party there. The previous year, they refurbished a public housing project playground.
"This year we wanted to do something for the elderly," Resich said. Aloha United Way helped make the match.
MC&A is in the destination and event management business, organizing conventions and corporate incentive meetings. Project Dana benefited from the skill of people who transformed the University of Hawaii lower campus for the U.S. Toyota convention attended by 6,000 people, the highlight of which was an Aerosmith concert.
Organizing corporation events often includes planning "team-building" events, usually something fun and recreational like beach Olympics or scavenger hunts, Resich said. "This is team-building for us."
Most of the work force bused in Thursday are office staff, whose planning, organizing and business skills don't require work gloves and ladder-climbing. A core of people with carpentry, painting and other skills started earlier in the week, scraping and spackling, replacing rotten boards and cutting lumber and rain gutters to size. And cleaning out the closets.
"I'm going to feel this tomorrow," said comptroller Clayton Uchimura after digging in the back yard.
"It is rewarding ... afterward," said Trudy Yamasaki-Viela, of the planning division. "It's what you do, you give back to the community."
Karen Mauguchei, who works as an airport greeter, said: "I'm a firm believer that when you give, it comes back to you. Good deeds should be done all year, not just on the holiday.
"It's nice to work as a group, to hear the laughter."
Rose Nakamura stayed throughout the afternoon, doing her best to make sure they all also heard the thanks.