Hometown Heroes: Volunteers plant native saplings at veterans cemetery

  • Volunteers from the Hawaii Loa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, along with participants from Hawaii Community College — Palamanui and the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, planted 60 native Hawaiian saplings­ including lama, milo, hau, and a’ali’i. (Courtesy photos/Special to West Hawaii Today)

  • The Hawaii Loa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other volunteers recently planted native saplings at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in North Kona. (Courtesy photo/Special to West Hawaii Today)

Editor’s note: Each Wednesday, West Hawaii Today is publishing a story about individuals, groups or organizations that have helped make life better for others in our community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Hawaii Loa Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) recently organized and sponsored a dry forest restoration day at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery in North Kona.

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Volunteers from the chapter, along with participants from Hawaii Community College — Palamanui and the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative, planted 60 native Hawaiian saplings­ including lama, milo, hau, and a’ali’i on the cemetery’s pu‘u on July 13. The saplings were sourced from the State Tree Nursery in Waimea. Volunteers also husked wiliwili seedpods from the Waikoloa dry forest to collect seeds for future plantings.

The service project was initiated by Hawaii Loa members Cindy Evans and Mary Ellen Smith, who brought together volunteers from DAR and other nonprofit organizations. Richard Stevens, of HCC-Palamanui, gave a brief history of the extensive damage that had been done to the cemetery and the surrounding dry forest by feral goats prior to the fencing of the cemetery grounds.

Participants were encouraged to dedicate each tree planted in remembrance of a loved one, such as a soldier or veteran. Hawaii Loa Chapter, NSDAR, donated funds for preparation of the planting site.

Since 2002, Hawaii Loa Chapter, NSDAR, has supported the DAR’s wide mission of historic preservation, education, and patriotism. Honoring veterans is an important part of that mission.

The chapter donates floral arrangements, wreaths, and flags for Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies at both the West Hawaii and Hilo veterans cemeteries and provides volunteers for the Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home in Hilo, sponsoring the Ladies Tea and bingo, and purchasing Christmas gifts for the residents. In December, the chapter donated and dedicated a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier “Never Forget” Garden and marker at the veterans home.

The Hawaii Loa Chapter, NSDAR, is also a 50th anniversary Vietnam War Commemorative partner. The chapter has honored these veterans and their families with commemorative pins and certificates, as well copies of Fallen Heroes of Hawaii County, a book compiled by members Pat Mood and Marcy Brinkley to honor the 51 Hawaii Island soldiers who died in Vietnam.

Ongoing projects include locating and honoring World War II veterans, and sewing patriotic quilts, and creating “fidget blankets” for veterans with Alzheimer’s Disease.

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For more information about these activities or about joining the chapter, NSDAR, contact Mary Ellen Smith at (808) 937-8778.

Know a Hometown Hero who should be highlighted next Wednesday? It can be anybody, from a youngster doing good for the community, to a professional helping with the COVID-19 pandemic, or even a kupuna! Please send your nominations to cjensen@westhawaiitoday.com with the subject: Hometown Heroes Nomination. Please include the hero’s name, contact information and what makes them a hero.

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