Volunteers are creating a garden at the West Hawaii Civic Center brick by brick.
Installation of the Kapilina Brick Garden began Thursday. In the hot sun, Knapp Masonry Co. employees, Hawaii Island Rotarians and residents built the complex mosaic of 1,526 bricks in three sizes and five colors. This type of masonry is a unique combination of artistry, puzzle work and intense labor, which volunteers called worthwhile and enjoyable.
Among the hundreds of bricks, 412 are laser engraved, each commemorating community leaders, residents, businesses, schools, nonprofits, groups and even pets. The notable dedications include bricks for the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and Shizuko “Mary” Teshima, as well as the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
The engraved bricks carry stories and leave a permanent mark of generous donors who support the work of seven area organizations helping build a healthy, strong community. The tapestry is a public display of pride, appreciation and gratitude, said Cliff Kopp, the project coordinator and designer.
When the first phase is completed this weekend, Kopp said the Kapilina Brick Garden will serve as “a time capsule” that people can walk around to discover who supports, lives or works in this community. In addition, the 17-by-24-foot feature will live up to its name by showing and allowing for connections, he added.
Na Wai Iwi Ola co-founder Keala Ching named the brick garden: Ka pilina means “the relationship” in Hawaiian.
Hawaii Island Growing Our Own Teachers, or HI-GOOT, and its board of directors are leading the project, with ongoing support from Rotarians and the county. The project began two or three years ago as a fundraiser for HI-GOOT, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that gives financial assistance to prospective teachers in the last semester of their education.
In spring 2011, Mayor Billy Kenoi and Managing Director Wally Lau had the vision to move the project from helping a single group to helping several. As a result, the following nonprofits will benefit: Hawaii Island Growing Our Own Teachers, The Food Basket, The Island of Hawaii YMCA, FRIENDS of the Children’s Justice Center, the Hawaii Island Humane Society, West Hawaii Community Health Center and HOPE Services Hawaii.
The project’s first phase generated $90,050 in donations, of which $52,050 will go to the nonprofits. The remaining $38,000 was used to purchase, engrave and ship the bricks, weighing 12,000 pounds, from Laser Impressions, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. Funds were also used to pay for construction-related costs. Additionally, Home Depot, Nan Inc., Bobby Inc., Gene Power Landscaping, Jas W. Glover Ltd., Soil Plus, Starbird Construction, Matthew Bolton Inc., Beech Tile and Direct Freight Services Hawaii provided corporate support, specifically for construction, Kopp said.
Construction began roughly three weeks ago, when 60,000 pounds of soil and aggregate were moved; grading was done; and 40 feet of accessible sidewalk and the garden’s concrete edge restraints were created, Kopp said.
Prior to the brick laying, Kopp laid out the entire puzzle inside the Council Chambers in two days. He received help from his son Jeremy, Kona Sunrise Rotarian Laura Guluzzy and her husband Don, and Kona Mauka Rotarian Kari Pietarila.
With the laying of each brick, community members of the past, present and future will be tied together; lives will be interwoven, several project supporters said.
When Kopp asked for help laying brick, Gregory Knapp didn’t hesitate in getting involved with the first phase, which consists of laying out the entire brick garden. He and four of his Knapp Masonry Co. employees volunteered their time, knowledge and skill Thursday and plan to contribute until the job is complete.
Knapp said he believes in giving back to the community for several reasons. First, he and his employees work and live here, as well as appreciate the jobs they get, which in return provide the life and lifestyle they enjoy. Second, they believe in sharing whatever they can. Third, he said it’s rewarding participating in community service projects. Over the years, Knapp Masonry Co. has helped with playgrounds and skate parks, he added.
Dryland taro native to the area will eventually be planted in the middle of the brick garden, an idea from Ching. He and kupuna will do the planting at the proper lunar time.
A blessing and dedication will happen in the coming weeks, Kopp said. He is also working on a scavenger hunt, incorporating the images found in the brick garden, for keiki.
Those interested in having a brick engraved can still do so. There are 200 bricks available and sales for the second phase continue through Dec. 31. The cost of these bricks are slightly higher, about 20 percent, because of the added work and production costs. The prices range from $60 for a 4-by-8-inch brick with a student’s name, school and class to $800 for a 12-by-12 brick with a corporate logo. The second phase will consist of taking blank bricks out and replacing them with engraved bricks, Kopp said.
Order forms are available at the mayor’s office at the West Hawaii Civic Center and online at brickprojectkona.org.