Drug court participant constructs, installs bench at Kona walking path

  • Betty De Roy, Brandon Lum Won, Akuni Ishii and Sheila Colon put finishing touches on a newly installed bench at Makaeo Walking Path. The bench was made by Lum Won to fulfill his community service hours for Big Island Drug Court. (Laura Ruminski/West Hawaii Today)

With COVID-19 restrictions in place, it has become difficult for Big Island Drug Court participants to find opportunities to perform community service. But one individual found a way to work off his hours while using his skills to benefit Maka‘eo Walking Path.

“Pulling weeds didn’t seem like something that would make an impact,” said Brandon Lum Won on Thursday.

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Lum Won was wrapping up performing 100 hours of community service for not being honest with his probation officer in accordance with Big Island Drug Court terms.

“It was either that or jail time,” he said. “I have a very understanding boss, but I work six days a week so it’s kind of hard to find time for community service.”

Yet he made time, and the result is a new resting area at the public walking path.

Lum Won said he saw a design for a bench, and with his construction skills, decided to build one for the path at Old Kona Airport Park.

He proposed the idea along with a photo to his probation officer, who conferred with Drug Court Coordinator Grayson Hashida.

Hashida then consulted with Betty DeRoy, who oversees maintenance of the landscaping at the popular path.

“They loved the idea,” Lum Won said.

On Thursday, Lum Won was assisted by a fellow drug court participant, Hashida, DeRoy and Friends for Fitness president Sheila Colon in installing the bench and clean up the area.

Lum Won set the painted wooden bench in concrete footers and spread gravel around the area.

“It’s beautiful because it’s right on the roadside. People are going to drive by and see that,” Lum Won said looking over the finished product. “The whole thing was to make it inviting. To stop and sit down and take a moment … to be in the moment, because that’s what they teach us in recovery.”

He relayed the tenets of recovery: the past is history; the future is a mystery; and the present is a gift. That’s why they call it a present.

Lum Won has set a goal to graduate from Drug Court in May.

“I hope I do, but if not, I trust the process of the program,” he said.

In order for a participant to graduate, he or she must complete the program, which includes being in compliance and not violating their terms for six months.

Big Island Drug Court, established in 2002 by retired 3rd Circuit Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra, is designed to address crimes related to substance abuse, and provide alternatives to incarceration.

The program provides participants access to court-based intensive outpatient substance abuse treatment, intensive care management, and probation supervision.

Since its inception, 319 adults have graduated from the program.

Hashida said there are currently 70 individuals in the Kona program. He said graduates are tracked for three years after graduation. Some relapse, however, 90% do not get convicted of new felony charges.

“Drug Court works for those who are ready,” said Lum Won. “I have seen what they did for some of the people I used to run with and how they are now.”

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After graduates from the program, he plans to keep in touch with drug court.

“I want to serve my community and help others in the program with their community service,” he said.

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