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Airmen from 152nd Civil Engineer Squadron help build homes for non-profit organization

SrA Lea Laney

Senior Airman Lea Laney, from the 152nd Civil Engineer Squadron in Reno, Nev. working with Opportunities and Resources Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Wahiawa, Hawaii, Aug. 1, 2017. She, along with fellow airmen performed many duties including tiling, plumbing, and setting up air conditioning units to help build new homes for the agency’s elderly clients to live in.

Wahiawa, Hawaii -- Opportunities and Resources Inc. is a non-profit organization located in Wahiawa, Hawaii. Its primary mission is to provide relief and promote the general welfare of the disabled, elderly, and disadvantaged.

Susanna F. Cheung, the agency’s founder and CEO, has a relationship with the military that spans almost four decades.

Now members of the 152nd Airlift Wing’s Civil Engineer Squadron get to partake in that relationship while performing their Innovative Readiness Training by teaming up with other units to build new facilities for the organization.

Cheung said her relationship with the military began around 1980 at a Christmas party when she lived near the Schofield Barracks in Wahiawa, Hawaii.

“The National Guard threw a Christmas party with us,” said Cheung. “They sent a Santa Claus out of a helicopter!”

She said at that time, the nonprofit was a new organization and she’d just come up with the idea to build homes for her clients so she could provide a place for them to live, as well as training that would equip them with the skills they need to be self-sufficient and have an improved quality of life.

Cheung said in the 1980s when she purchased the land where Opportunities and Resources Inc. is based, now called the Helemano Plantation, she knew developing on the raw land would not be an easy task to accomplish without tremendous help. She said she remembered something the soldiers told her at the Christmas party.

“They told me, ‘“When you want something, just ask a general, they always get stuff done,”’ said Cheung. “So I went to Schofield Barracks and told them I want to see a general. They asked me to tell them the name of the general I wanted to see and I told them I didn’t know who. I just wanted to talk to a general.”

Cheung said she doesn’t remember the name of the general with whom she spoke, but he agreed to help, and shortly after, the 65th Engineer Battalion, from the Schofield Barracks, began helping build the Helemano Plantation.

The plantation’s newest construction project is being funded and supported by the National Guard Bureau’s IRT Program, along with multiple units from base’s all over the U.S. including the 152nd CES.

The IRT program’s mission is to develop and facilitate mutually beneficial relationships between communities all over the US and the Department of Defense.

“To do work for the community gives a sense of purpose that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the same planet, same world,” said Senior Amn. Logan Depue, a heating, ventilation, air conditioning specialist with the 152nd CES.

The plantation has grown from 10 acres to 40 acres, and has housing for many of ORI’s clients, a medical facility, shops, a restaurant and many more facilities.

Helemano has been the recipient of several awards including the prestigious National Community Service and Development Award of Excellence.

Cheung said she hopes her project and partnership with the military can continue for many years.

May Hong, an employee at Opportunities and resources Inc., said “Her heart is in helping people with disabilities and disadvantages. She also wants the military members who help to experience Hawaii and other culture.”

Hong said that Cheung is very grateful to the military and works hard to make them feel at home and welcome while they are at the plantation helping.

“I want people to understand the U.S. Military likes to help. They don’t just go to war. They help. They build. They keep people going,” said Cheung.