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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, March 21, 2010

Boys dorm looking good, thanks to pack of 'elves'

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Locations Foundation volunteers Karen Robertshaw, left, of Kāhala, and Cui Chen, of Kalihi, clean window screens at the Hawai'i School for the Deaf and the Blind in Waikīkī.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Shortly after the crack of dawn yesterday three dozen blue-shirted folks descended on the boys dormitory at the Hawai'i School for the Deaf and the Blind in Waikīkī, and, like a pack of cheerful elves, began painting, sweeping and scouring.

While most dabbed paint, scrubbed walls and cleaned window screens in the dorm, a half-dozen workers raked, trimmed and mulched the landscape around the building.

"This is my first time, and it's really great," said Inez Martin, as she smoothed out a pile of mulch with a rake. "I wanted to be outside. So I like this."

Most of the elves were volunteers from the nonprofit Locations Foundation, which is made up of real estate agents who work for Prudential Locations.

Not only do the foundation folks donate their time for worthy projects such as the dorm cleanup, they donate their money as well, said foundation member Marshall Mower.

The foundation handed over $8,000 for yesterday's cleanup, for example.

Yesterday's work was the sixth project the foundation has done with Hawaii 3Rs (Repair, Remodel, Restore) a private, nonprofit organization that awards work grants to Hawai'i public schools through state, federal and private funding.

Hawaii 3Rs was started in 2001 as a way to trim what was then a $600 million-plus school maintenance and repair backlog for the state. Since it began, 3Rs has saved taxpayers millions through its volunteer efforts.

"We feel Hawaii 3Rs is a great way to get involved in contributing our time and money to various schools that are in need," said Mower, who explained that the foundation asked 3Rs if there was something it could do for the school.

"Many times Hawaii 3Rs will let our foundation know which school is in need," Mower said. "But in this case we went to them and said is there something we can do for the Hawai'i School for the Deaf and the Blind? So, with our monetary contribution and the help of the general contractors involved, we're able to do a lot more with a lot less money."

Yesterday's cleanup alone brought the school maintenance backlog down by $150,000, said Elaine Mock, executive assistant for Hawaii 3Rs. She said the two companies contracted to do interior painting and hallway lighting Jade Painting and Punaluu Builders donated materials at a substantial discount and added in volunteer help besides.


Professional painter Judah Heffernan said he was glad to be able to volunteer his time.

"Our boss does a lot of these charity-type gigs," Heffernan said. "I know Jade Painting will get involved in school projects and things like that. This was good because the building had been pretty neglected. And we were able to make it look pretty nice. The principal told us it hadn't been painted in something like 14 years."

Or even longer, said principal Sydney Dickerson, who started out as a teacher at the school 17 years ago and said the dorm looked as though it could use a coat of paint back then.

"This dormitory houses the boy students from the Neighbor Islands," Dickerson said.

He said the school's 75 students have been on spring break for the past week. That gave the contract workers a chance to work throughout the week in preparation for foundation volunteers to come in at week's end to finish up.

The Neighbor Island students live at the dorm throughout the week, so it serves as a home away from home for them. While the boys' dorm, built in the 1960s, has never been renovated, a matching girls' dorm was totally refurbished a few years back.

Dickerson said she couldn't believe how much brighter the dorm's 14 rooms and front lobby appeared after volunteers had finished transforming the place.

"They've done a great job not only just painting and cleaning up the rooms, but they've redecorated and put back the kids' things," she said. "The Prudential folks have remade their beds and put fresh linens on them.

"I think the boys will be thrilled when they come back."