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When Big Brothers Big Sisters of Honolulu asked mentors and mentees to come out in honor of this month's Global Youth Service Day, an annual event sponsored by Youth Service America and other, and lend a hand at a local beach cleanup, the response, says Alicia Gutierrez, was tremendous.
About 50 people – mentors, mentees, family members and staff – showed up Saturday morning, April 16, ready to help and have some fun.
Gutierrez, a community-based case manager, organized the effort and kicked the day off with some trash-related trivia. She asked volunteers, for example, "How long does it take an aluminum can to decompose in the environment?" The answer: about 100 years.
“We wanted the young people to understand the impact of littering and also the impact that they were having for years to come, just by showing up that day and picking up trash,” Gutierrez says.
Eager to get started, cleanup crews fanned out to scour the huge park. Some encountered homeless people living in the park, who thanked them for doing the cleanup.
Mentors and mentees really enjoyed working together to do something good for the community, Gutierrez says.
After the cleanup, Big Brothers Big Sisters hosted a picnic, and the Honolulu Parks and Recreation Department gave volunteers coupons to a local McDonalds as a way of saying thanks.
“There was a lot of positive energy. People left feeling like they accomplished something and made something of their day,” Gutierrez says.
One mentor and mentee pair was so inspired by the experience, they decided to do more community service that day. They went from the beach to donate food at a food bank down the street.
“Everyone said they wanted to do these kinds of service activities more regularly,” Gutierrez says, “so next year, we’d like to make it a more regular event – just to give people an opportunity to think about others and help out when they can."