Last year, John Burrett and about 50 other men from the Waipahu branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hauled out several truckloads of bulky trash from Waipahu Cultural Garden Park and vowed to make it an annual project.
“The same group of guys is coming out this year,” Burrett said. “All of us like helping to beautify the community. It makes you feel real good, and it bring us pride as church members and as part of the larger community. And it alleviates the burden for our government.”
They are making good on their promise today, in conjunction with 3,400 members of the LDS Church on Oahu in a massive statewide effort to clean up parks and beaches, said state organizer Alan Walker, president of the LDS Waipahu Stake.
It’s part of the “Mormon Helping Hands” project, a repeat of last year’s effort in which more than 6,000 LDS members spruced up 81 city and state parks and other areas throughout Hawaii, Walker said. The number of volunteers could increase this year because they have asked their friends and family members to participate.
The Hawaii LDS decided to “share some our aloha with the community and reach out to contribute as a good citizen,” Walker said, after being inspired by an LDS cleanup in California two years ago. The service project is also taking place today in California.
“I personally like to clean things up,” Burrett said, “When I go jogging, I pick up paper. I want to make my community nicer.”
At his church there are Samoan-, Tongan- and English-speaking congregations. He said about “50 big Polynesian men” volunteered last year to clear a section below the hillside of the Waipahu park, where people had dumped tons of junk like old washing machines, tires and car bumpers. Some of the men worked for companies that donated the use of recycling trucks, and heavy equipment to move the trash, Burrett said.
“It was pretty impressive — we finished by the early afternoon,”he said. “We felt like we had the equipment and the strength in numbers to do it, because it would be difficult for anyone else to do it. We were best suited for it, and we were happy to do it. We said we are definitely going to do it annually.”
Clint Jamile, coordinator of the park volunteers program of the city Department of Parks and Recreation, said the city will provide gloves, trash bags and trash removal, along with some supervision at some parks.
Jamile said government, short of staff because of budget cuts, appreciates the help of church members.
“It’s tremendous. It’s beyond words. They do a fantastic job,” Jamile said.
Mormon Helping Hands was officially organized by the LDS in 1998, when the church asked South American church leaders to establish an annual day of service.
Mormon Helping Hands has spread to every corner of the world, and began in the U.S. with emergency relief efforts during the 2005 Hurricane Katrina disaster, said Dennis Drake, LDS media spokesman.