Helping Hands: TSA Maui helps keep ‘aina clean

Tuesday, May 4, 2021
Volunteers at OGG photo

Editor’s Note: This story spotlights the exceptional work of TSA employees who have volunteered outside of their normal duties and responsibilities to lend a “helping hand” to others. This Helping Hands feature is also designed to highlight Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, which TSA celebrates throughout May.

It was hot and humid, but several TSA employees in Maui weathered the scorching sun and heat during a huge beautification project on their airport grounds. And they did it while off-duty.

The TSA Employee Advisory Council at Kahului Airport organized a major project to help bring attention to the need to keep their ‘aina clean. ‘Aina means land in Hawaiian.

“We noticed how there was a lot of opala (trash) around the cargo parking lot,” said TSA Lead Officer Kelcie Quemado. “So, we asked for volunteers, agreed on a meeting location and provided the supplies and lunches for those who participated. We started the cleanup at the beginning of the parking lot, up to one end of the airport and continued at the other end.”

Volunteer team photo
TSA team members at Kahului Airport (OGG) beautify the airport grounds. From left, TSA Supervisory Officer Johnalyn Fujieda; TSA Lead Officers Charles Litzler and Kelcie Quemado; TSA Officers Eric Nishimoto, Brandon Tanoue, Gary Tang, Keanu Hoopai, Jaqueline Fuentes and Stephanie Jordan. (Photo courtesy of TSA OGG)

Quemado said a few volunteers also walked along the airport curbside to collect trash, with a lot of garbage found in the baggage claim waiting areas. They ended up filling over 12 large trash bags.

“It bothered me a lot that a lot of gloves and masks were constantly being left on the ground along with other trash,” she noted. “I wanted to do something about it and be part of our community that could make a difference, whether it was picking up trash or influencing others to do the same.”

TSA Supervisory Officer Johnalyn Fujieda appreciated the opportunity to volunteer for a project like this, which she said benefits a group outside TSA.

“We have an exceptional team, and I want all of Maui to know it,” Fujieda proclaimed. “The airport stakeholders were so supportive of us during numerous [government] shutdowns, and I want them to see it’s a two-way street. We appreciate their support and want to let them know we are there for them, too.”

TSA Officer Gary Tang feels the cleanup project showed the community that TSA employees care about our environment.

“Doing a little makes a difference,” Tang said. “Doing nothing accomplishes nothing.”

Similar to TSA’s partnership with the nation’s transportation operators, Quemado believes the airport beautification project is part a growing partnership with the Maui community.

“I would like to think this could help influence the rest of the community we work with and those who come to the airport to do their part in keeping the land clean,” said Quemado. “We are family. It should be in our nature to want to pick up all the opala on the ground.”

“Our Pacific team is very active in the community,” Hawaii Federal Security Director Jenel Cline added. “This is just another example of their great efforts to make a difference. Having this connection and partnership with the local community raises the morale across the Pacific team. I am very proud of our team out here.”

Quemado strongly believes volunteering creates a sense of accomplishment and is important, and she encourages all of us to consider volunteering when given the opportunity. “It shows people how involved you are and how much you care. It also builds morale and a bond between those participating, creates memories and sets a good example for fellow peers and the younger generation.”