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Lifestyle // Good Neighbors
Christina O’Connor

Maile Au, Ahni- Kailea Stephens

Maile Au, Ahni- Kailea Stephens

Photo by Dr. Jeremy Lam

According to nonprofit Malama Manoa, plants and trees in urban areas are in decline. Besides adding to the aesthetics of an urban area, greenery improves the air quality and can help maintain soil health. As a response to this problem, Malama Manoa devised its 1,000-Tree Giveaway – a biennial effort to give attendees a tree or plant. This year’s event will run from 8 a.m. to noon Sunday at Manoa Valley District Park Pavilion. Heading up the giveaway are first-time co-chairwomen Maile Au (pictured on right) and Ahni-Kailea Stephens (back, left). Au was raised in Manoa, while Stephens moved there 10 years ago.

“Our urban forest is diminishing day by day,” Stephens says, “and we hope that this will contribute to keeping our valley, or even our state, green … Trees and plants also help reduce the use of electricity and air conditioners by producing shade for nearby houses.”

The Tree Giveaway will feature a range of trees and plants, including taro, kukui nut, mountain apple, aloe, valentine vines and more. Attendees will be given one ticket each and can select the tree that is right for them. You don’t need to be a Manoa resident to pick up a tree. Boy Scouts will help load trees. The event also entails an educational element. Specialists will be on hand to answer questions, and the group will provide information about the uses for the dry-land kalo plant.

“I think it’s a great way for people to gain exposure to all these different types of plants and what you can do with them,” Au says.

Malama Manoa was founded in 1992 to promote community cohesiveness and preserve Manoa Valley. The group also cleans Manoa Stream regularly and works to protect historic sites.

Au and Stephens, along with other volunteers, have been planning for this event for several months. Au explains that they’ve had a lot of help from the community – including one Manoa man who is looking after about 800 of the trees, and a group of Punahou students who are taking care of the rest.

Au and Stephens were asked by a friend and past chair to get involved. Both were inspired to support the cause because of their love for Manoa, as well as a desire to help the environment.

“We both have kids who love to play outside,” Stephens says. “It’s really important for us to have our kids be able to play outside in a safe, green environment.”

“Hopefully, (the event) can spread the word and get people thinking a little bit more about the environment and the beauty of Hawaii,” Au says. “We want to share trees with as many people as possible.”

For more information, visit malamaomanoa.org.

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