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Hawaiian youth group to join in community service projects

By Charles Young

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Twelve members of Kupu, a Honolulu-based affiliate organization of the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps, arrived at Yeager Airport Tuesday afternoon to participate in the largest community service effort of its kind to be performed in the country. 

The members of the group, who range in age from 15 to 23, come from the Hawaiian island of Lanai. For many of them, this was their first visit to the continental United States.

Mayor Danny Jones, Alisa Baily, the CEO of the Charleston Convention and Visitor's Bureau, and numerous volunteers met the group at the airport to welcome them to Charleston.

"We're so pleased to have you here, and I'd like to welcome you on behalf of our entire state," Jones said after he was presented with a yellow plastic lei.

The group also greeted Jones and rest of the assembled welcome party by performing a special Hawaiian oli, or chant. In Hawaiian culture, which did not have a written language until the early 19th century, oli were composed to mark significant occasions and to pass along important information.

During its six-day trip, which is the culmination of a six-week summer program aimed at empowering youth to serve their communities, the group will join 40,000 other service organizations like the Boy Scouts of America and AmeriCorps in the Reach the Summit Community Service Initiative. 

The program is sponsored by the West Virginia Civilian Conservation Corps and was selected by the Boy Scouts to fulfill the "Day of Service" component of the 2013 National Scout Jamboree.

The initiative includes more than 350 individual projects throughout Fayette, Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Nicholas, Raleigh, Summers and Wyoming counties and will result in more than 300,000 combined hours of community service.

The members of the Kupu group will be working and staying in Pipestem Resort State Park, on the border between Mercer and Summers counties. They will perform park maintenance and repairs, do landscaping work, litter removal and help with the construction of new walkways and shelters.

AmeriCorps volunteers who met the group at the airport gave them drawstring bags, T-shirts and flash drives as welcome gifts.

Paahana Kincaid, a member of the Kupu group, said the group was worn out after the 9-hour flight but was energized by the prospect of experiencing the state.

"We're really excited to see what West Virginia is all about and to explore its natural beauty," she said. "We're honored to be here and to be representing Lanai and the State of Hawaii and just really grateful for the opportunity."

Kincaid said the group was looking forward to seeing what the people and landscape of West Virginia have in common with Hawaiians.

"Well, I know definitely our mountains and our steams in common, we have that in Hawaii," she said. "But we're just willing to learn, are excited to learn about the natural resources that are here."

Jones chimed in, saying that even if there were nothing else in common between the two states, they both at least "had nice people." 

On Saturday, the group will return to Charleston to collectively throw out the first pitch and be honored for their service to the state during the West Virginia Power's game against the Kannapolis Intimidators.

Contact writer Charles Young at charles.young@dailymail.com or 304-348-1796.

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