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Doing Their Part In Paradise

POSTED UNDER Go Green Employee Resource Groups

Kanaha Beach Cleanup Event in Hawaii

Macy’s store Associates from the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center in Kahului, Hawaii recently teamed up with the neighboring Macy’s shop at the Hyatt Regency Maui. Their goal was to help protect the ocean by cleaning up a nearby beach. In the end, however, they did so much more.

Last year, this group organized its first beach cleanup event. At the start, the eager volunteers searched for trash on a touristy beach. They found some litter, but not a lot. The service event took an unexpected turn when a lifeguard pointed them to an area of the beach where a population of homeless people was living.

In Hawaii, homelessness is a bigger problem than you might think. The warm climate and beautiful scenery attract many people to the state. Unfortunately, with its high cost of living, many find themselves homeless and living on the beach. Although it has decreased slightly since last year, the State Department of Human Services found in its 2017 Point-In-Time Count Report that there are approximately 7,220 individuals experiencing homelessness in the state and 896 specifically in Maui County.

The team of Associates collected (with occupants’ permissions) thousands of cigarette butts and other small pieces of trash that day. They didn't want to disturb living spaces, but cleaning up around the area was quite an undertaking. Within a few hours, they made a huge impact. They quickly realized they weren't just cleaning up the beach for the environment; they were making an immediate difference in people’s lives, too.

"Beaches are the No. 1 attraction in Hawaii. We want to preserve them, but also make it a nicer home for the homeless community. Our team wanted to show that we care about the people who call the beaches their homes, too,” said event organizer Debbie Chuckas, vice president store manager of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Center location.

The social component ended up being a big part of the volunteers’ work. Many of the residents came up to thank them. “They really appreciated it and didn’t feel like we were intruding,” continued Chuckas, "It really hit home for us and made us want to make sure it was an annual event."

As a result of this positive experience, the team decided they had to do it again to celebrate Earth Week 2017. This year, about 25 Associates spent four hours collecting enough litter to fill a dumpster in Kanaha Beach by the airport. "It was unbelievable,” exclaimed Chuckas. These areas can accumulate a lot of garbage, especially beach plastic, which can cause big issues if it ends up in the ocean. Chuckas continued, “There were bottles, portable cooking utensils, home goods, regular dishes, clothing, beach chairs – everything and anything.”

Seeing the impact they could make, the group quickly committed to host a second cleanup event before the end of this year. In addition, word spread around the state. Associates at the Oahu Macy’s store were so inspired by this group that they organized their own beach cleanup at a popular beach across from their store. “In general, we do a lot outside of work for the community,” said Chuckas, "I'm really proud of my team and my fellow Macy’s Associates."



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