Hilma Chang, who showed a photo of the Arizona Memorial at her home yesterday, will be honored by President Bush for her volunteer work at the memorial.

USS Arizona Memorial
staff chooses ‘Mother Chang’
to ‘say hi’ to president

When USS Arizona Memorial rangers told park volunteer Hilma Chang last week that she will be meeting the president, she thought they were kidding.

"The ranger said, 'Say hi to the president for me.' I said, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,'" Chang recalled yesterday.

Then the 79-year-old great-grandmother from Liliha got a call from the White House on Monday.

Chang was selected to meet President Bush tomorrow because of her volunteer work at the memorial and with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Ladies Auxiliary.

Since the first anniversary of Bush's USA Freedom Corps, an initiative to get Americans to volunteer to help their communities, the president has been recognizing volunteers around the country.

For the past 10 years, Chang has been catching the 5:30 a.m. bus from her home on Liliha Street on Sundays. She stops in Chinatown to buy manapua for the other volunteers and staff and then catches the No. 62 bus to the memorial, where she collects program tickets and answers questions from visitors at the information desk.

When the White House asked the memorial staff to select a volunteer for the president to honor, Chang was the unanimous choice, said Terry Dorman, the volunteer manager at the Arizona Memorial.

"We call her Mother Chang because she's like a second mother out here to everyone," Dorman said. "Whenever anyone is ill, she sends cards. She just really takes care of all of us."

Chang puts in 400 hours a year at the memorial. All the volunteers at the memorial put in a record 22,400 hours of service last year and saved the equivalent of $250,000 in taxpayers' funds, Dorman said.

Chang said she's more nervous and surprised than excited about meeting the president. As of yesterday, she hadn't told her children and grandchildren about the honor.

Chang has also volunteered with the VFW Ladies Auxiliary for the past 39 years. About three times a month, Chang and other volunteers deliver hand-made yarn leis to veterans in nursing homes on their birthdays. She also marches in the Fourth of July parade and teaches schoolchildren and new citizens about patriotism.

"She just enjoys helping people," said fellow VFW volunteer Anna Alvaro.

"It makes you feel real good when you volunteer and when the day is over you know you did something," Chang said.


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