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Chips fly! Volunteers recycle Christmas trees

Some 1,038 Church members were visible volunteers during a Jan. 2 Christmas tree recycling project on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. They helped staff 12 sites throughout the island in the post-holiday clean-up effort.

The purpose of the event was to collect, then mechanically chip and grind used trees into mulch for use in Hawaii's parks and botanical gardens.The Latter-day Saints involved included 76 full-time missionaries, most of whom had "signed on" with their ward elders quorums or who filled assignments from the Church's Oahu Public Affairs Council, which co-sponsored the project. Sister missionaries directed traffic or helped remove remaining tree decorations or tinsel.

Coordinating the Church participation were Faith and John A. Burgwinkel of the Kaneohe Hawaii Stake. Sister Burgwinkel is the Oahu council's community relations specialist.

Dale Hoffmann, community projects coordinator with the State Litter Control office, an arm of the Department of Health and Environmental Protection, said there were approximately 15,000 trees collected Jan. 2. Other volunteer groups collected and chipped trees Jan. 9.

"About $40,000 was raised to pay for privately owned chipping machines, T-shirts and lunches for volunteers, printing, etc.," he said.

Hoffmann praised the work of the LDS volunteers. "We work with about 28,000 volunteers on many projects annually. But my experience being around your Church people was like a dream come true. They were enthusiastic, on time, totally self-sufficient, and worked with a high degree of efficiency."

"At one site, I participated with them in a prayer before the trees started arriving - it was inspirational. They epitomize the spirit of voluntarism. They greeted the public cheerfully, thanked them for coming, unloaded the trees and wished them happy new year as they left. It helped inspire people, showing them volunteer work can be enjoyable," he added.

Clyde Morita, director of the State Litter Control office, and Marion Donohue, founder of the Christmas tree recycling project in Hawaii, also observed the operations at several sites.

Most impressive, they said, was the organization of volunteers at the Mililani site. Jeff Mendor, site coordinator and a convert to the Church of less than three months, delegated traffic control to bishoprics, tree unloading to high priests and elders, tinsel removal to the youth, and lunches to Relief Society. "It was very effective and efficient," officials commented.

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