Volunteers help educate Maui kids


POSTED: Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Bridget Bunting said with four children in school, she felt overwhelmed in September when she heard public schools were being closed on 17 Fridays due to state budget cutbacks.

Bunting called meetings at the school and worked with other parents and supporters to form a group that now operates a free enrichment program at Kihei Elementary School in South Maui on Furlough Fridays.

“;The kids are having a good time, and it's amazing to see the community come together,”; Bunting said.

The Kihei Community Keiki Club operates from 8:05 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering physical education, music, dance and art classes.

Attendance has been growing from 18 children in the first week to 38 in the second week, with most children ranging from kindergarten to first grade.

Ed Lane, a professional artist who has been a volunteer, said the children have responded well.

“;It's a good community effort and I think it will grow,”; he said.

One of the art projects involved painting a mural of a field of sunflowers on a portion of a wall at the school cafeteria.

“;They're very enthusiastic,”; Lane said. “;Everybody had a good time.”;

Lane said he planned to have the students make Christmas ornaments from a flour mixture that will be shaped, baked and painted.

Bunting said the group has also had professional musicians from Ebb & Flow Arts donating several sessions, and the Kihei Academy of Dance holding classes in tap, ballet and jazz dancing.

She said a number of residents have helped to act as volunteer coordinators, including Mary Bevill, Patti Domingo and Netra Halperin.

Halperin, a child and family therapist with a master's degree in psychology, said the children have responded well to the variety of activities.

“;The children are so enthusiastic about participating,”; she said.

Bunting said Maui resident Marc Hodges originated the idea for the free Furlough Friday program and provided guidance, including help in creating a Web site.

Bunting, who worked as a paraprofessional helping disabled schoolchildren, said she felt the state should have handled the Furlough Friday issue differently and not allowed the elimination of instructional days.

Bunting said volunteers are still needed for programs.

More information can be obtained through the group's Web site.