Volunteers are the heart of our community
Every volunteer, no matter how big or small his or her contribution, helps to make the County of Maui one of the world’s best places to live. The work of helping hands and caring hearts mix the “secret sauce” that makes Maui, Moloka’i and Lana’i such ono places to call home.
National Volunteer Week starts Sunday and runs through Saturday. This year, it encompasses two religious holidays, Easter and Passover, plus Earth Day on Friday.
National Volunteer Week formally recognizes those who generously give of their time and talent in service of others. As with other heroes, volunteers use their superpowers to quietly transform the world, one act of aloha at a time.
Volunteerism has long been a tradition in my own family. My wife Joycelyn and I have given several years of service to our church, Maui schools, community service organizations and youth programs like Little League Baseball, basketball, Boy Scouts and more. For decades, we volunteered to help make the Maui Fair happen each year, including my years of rewarding service as fair director. Our two sons, Mike and Shane, inherited our love for community service because they grew up experiencing the joy and satisfaction that comes from helping others.
Maui County would not have survived the COVID-19 pandemic without the thousands of anonymous volunteers who pitched in to help with mask-sewing and distributions, food drives, vaccination clinics, hot meal deliveries, keiki and kupuna care, and watching over those in quarantine.
The pandemic interrupted our personal lives, businesses and community institutions, including the many nonprofit organizations that serve our community so well. While some of us are still adjusting to post-pandemic life, others are ready to rejoin the community as volunteers with renewed energy.
After two years of pandemic-induced social isolation, volunteering is a simple, easy way to jump into socializing with positive-minded people. If you are new to Maui County, volunteering will acquaint you with the kindhearted folks who live aloha in our community.
The best part of volunteering is that it feels good to do good. Volunteers are needed to help fill the needs of children, seniors and families, culture and the arts, the sick, youth and adult sports, animals and pets, education, the homeless and hungry, immigrants and so much more.
With Earth Day coming up on Friday, I suggest we each commit to do something to help Mother Earth. This year’s theme is “Invest in our Planet,” but with the rising cost of everything these days, I know many of us aren’t in a position to invest money right now. But every single person can invest a little bit of time to care for our island home.
Malama Maui Nui welcomes volunteers to help clean up the islands. Ocean lovers can volunteer for the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, Surfrider Foundation or Love the Sea to care for our nearshore marine environment. The East Maui Watershed Partnership, Leeward Haleakala Watershed Restoration Partnership and Friends of Haleakala regularly organize group service trips to preserve and protect crucial ecosystems. Moloka’i Land Trust, Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission and the Lana’i Culture & Heritage Center’s Kupulau Program offer opportunities for volunteers to help care for our sister islands. These are just suggestions — there are many other important environmental groups throughout Maui County that welcome your help.
There’s no need to join a formal effort to do something good for the earth. Your contribution can be as simple as cleaning the roadsides in your neighborhood, planting a native tree in your yard, walking or biking instead of driving or shopping at a farmers market for locally grown produce. You can help the environment, save some money and get some fresh air by hanging your laundry in the sunshine instead of popping it into a dryer. Reduce, reuse, recycle, remove plastic waste from the beach or compost your organic household waste. There are countless things you can do to help the environment that cost you nothing.
Every small action matters. If 160,000 of us volunteer to do just one good thing for the ‘aina, all living things throughout Maui County will benefit.
* “Our County,” a column from Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino, discusses county issues and activities of county government. The column alternates with “Council’s 3 Minutes” every other weekend.