Volunteers needed at Waimea District Park gym: Staffing shortage leaves weekdays and weekends closed to public afternoons and evenings

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WAIMEA — On June 7, Waimea District Park gym hours were reduced drastically for the general public, open only to groups with scheduled usage or children grades K-6 registered in the Summer Fun Program through July 21.

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WAIMEA — On June 7, Waimea District Park gym hours were reduced drastically for the general public, open only to groups with scheduled usage or children grades K-6 registered in the Summer Fun Program through July 21.

General residents, who funded the facility with their taxpayer dollars, can’t access the gym weekdays or weekends in the afternoon during the seven-week period. It’s usually open from 12-8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, Fridays 7:45-4:30 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 10 a.m.-6 p.m. The front gate and outdoor playground remain open currently from 7 a.m. until the last group leaves in the evening.

According to Mason Souza, Hawaii County Parks &Recreation’s recreation administrator, an employee hired for the Summer Fun Program in Waikoloa dropped out at the last minute, with little time to find a replacement, so another employee was sent there leaving Waimea District Park short staffed.

“We had to take our recreation tech III employee to Waikoloa to fill the spot that was left vacant. But we are always looking for volunteers to enhance what we have to offer,” he said. “What each director does is solicit volunteers using our volunteer procedures, as we are not capable to keep the facilities open for more than eight hours per day.”

Residents interested in volunteering at Waimea District gym weekdays and weekends could be approved as early as next week if they pass a background check.

“Volunteers have a love for children, the community, a passion for recreation, are able to follow rules of the facility and most importantly, they are able to communicate with the public,” Souza said.

Melissa Samura, Waimea District Park’s recreation director, said help is most needed this summer weekday afternoons and weekends. Volunteers can help out as much as their schedule allows at the gym. Duties range from opening and closing the gym, restrooms and gate to maintaining discipline and order.

After hearing the news last week, Sue Dela Cruz, engagement lead with Blue Zones Project — North Hawaii, offered to help communicate the need to local residents seeking ways to volunteer in Waimea from a long list they have created over the past two years.

“The Blue Zones Project can help with getting the word out through our social media avenue. We help our community members find opportunities to volunteer in the community,” she said. “One of our Power 9 for living longer, better is to have purpose, and volunteering is one way our community members have purpose.”

As a local resident, Cruz said she can see the benefit of having the gym open for the community. A group or volunteer that is willing to take one day a week to be there would open up opportunities for places where teens and families could come together.

“I think it would give the community a sense of ownership and they will take care of the place,” she said.

Volunteers can also help out at the gym year-round, after the Summer Fun Program ends in July.

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“Part of our job at the facility is to recruit participants and volunteers for programs,” Souza said. “If you love working with people and have the passion for recreation, you are exactly what we are looking for. We are always looking for volunteers to enhance our programs.”

To sign up as a volunteer at Waimea District Park gym contact Melissa Samura at 887-1906 or Mason Souza at 333-9784.

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