Story and photo by Sgt. Marcus Fichtl
8th Military Police Brigade Public Affairs
WAIALUA — North Shore community members, including a dozen Soldiers from the 8th Military Police Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, came together to paint the Kupuna Housing Project, here, Sept. 29.
Originally founded to provide housing for the disabled and elderly, through the years, the Kupuna Housing project fell into disrepair as drugs and transients began to dominate the once quiet neighborhood.
Community members, including State House Representative Gil Riviere, saw an opportunity to bring life back to the Kapuna area neighborhood with aid from the military and 40 students from Youth Build, a school that gives 18-24 year olds a second chance.
“We asked what can we do to make this a better community,” said Riviere. “If we can clean the place up, if we can paint this and do the grounds, the people who live here will have more pride in the place, and it will help feed the community and create a healthy back and forth.”
And part of that back and forth was a quick call to the 8th MP Bde., a unit traditionally involved with the North Shore community. The unit currently sponsors elementary schools from Waialua to Kahuku.
Riviere saw the Army, not as an outside group sponsoring the community, but as vital members of the community.
“We called the Army because they are a great community neighbor,” said Riviere. “(The Army is) always willing to help.”
And help, Soldiers did. Teams painted houses, one by one.
Forty young adults from Youth Build picked up a paintbrush and joined the Soldiers.
“We give drop outs and offenders a chance to get their high school diplomas,“ said Joelene Cruz, case manager and counselor for Youth Build.
Cruz said this project was an emotional job for many in Youth Build who grew up in communities similar to Kupuna. The effort was vital in building character.
Through the hard work of painting, combined with the examples demonstrated by their Soldier co-workers, the young participants experienced what a little discipline can accomplish.
The day ended with bright, new housing for the residents of Kapuna coupled with a short lesson on voting.
“Without the Army and the youth group, this couldn’t have happened,” said Riviere.