Life at the TankParents help maintain a Carnival tradition
By Malia Zimmerman
Lia Howe, Holly Moy, Deanna Sivik and Tammy Yee spend most Wednesdays and Saturdays in the "Tank," a large cement bunker on Rocky Hill where the Punahou community can drop off their once cherished clothes, household goods, treasures, toys and books.
There, these sophomore parents shadow the junior parents in charge of the White Elephant Booth at the Punahou Carnival, and help them year-round to sort through thousands of items to determine if they should be sold at Carnival or donated to another charity.
Eleven sophomore parents stepped up this year to work in the White Elephant Division alongside the junior parents, learning the ins and outs of a highly organized system instituted by "The Tankettes." The Tankettes are a group of Punahou parents, alumni or faculty who work in the Tank. For them, the Tank is full of adventure and the best place to learn the history and latest news at Punahou.
Howe said, "Everyone thought I was crazy when I said I was doing White Elephant, that it was so much work. I've actually had great fun and the Tankettes are just so full of Punahou and island history that I never leave the Tank without learning something new."
When parents step up to be Carnival White Elephant division heads, they commit to a two-year volunteer cycle, "shadowing" or learning the ropes during their child's sophomore year, and then taking over once Carnival is over. Many new friendships are developed over folding clothes, organizing toys and housewares, combing through books and digging through treasures.
Moy recalled some of the more unusual donations: a new travel bladder that still has a "sample" tag on it – and there is a story about a homemade volcano almost as big as the petite Tankettes. Those items probably won't make it to the White Elephant tent at Carnival, says Moy, but other treasures will turn up, including collectables, Asian art, pottery and porcelain. Book lovers also will find a good read, with gently used school textbooks for thrifty families.
For clothing buffs and collectors, the Tank is a dream come true. "There are a lot of vintage clothes that come into the Tank. A friend bought this absolutely amazing vintage biker's leather vest. You never know what comes in on any given Wednesday or Saturday," says Howe.
The Tank also helps support local nonprofits with donations. "I have been learning how the Tank services so many differentneedy community organizations –old books go to public schools and prisons, a UCP [United Cerebral Palsy Association] truck comes to pick up donations every Wednesday, clothes and sneakers go to homeless people, and Community Clearinghouse gets bigger items that are hard to sell. I always thought all the donated items were stored till Carnival!" Howe said.
Yee, who works in housewares and any other department that may need her help, was excited about Wednesday sat the Tank, where she met new people and was able to expand her creative side.
Sivik said she had no idea what she was getting into at first. "I liked meeting all the folks there and the kids were helpful with getting me situated in the toys section of the Tank. I was a bit overwhelmed with all the "stuff" that was there that needed to be sorted, checked, and priced –whew!" Sivik is glad she can help. "I hope to learn from my experience this year in order to better understand how the system works at the Tank. The more I can learn, the more help I can be next year, helping it move along smoothly. I want to be a positive contribution for this worthy cause."
Other sophomore shadows working alongside junior parents at the Tank are Helena Barahal, Dexin Chang, Steve and Julie Shin, Lisa Yamaguchi Bowden, Debbie and Todd Hedrick.
Howe says she is enjoying volunteering: "It is a great way to get to know the kids better. There are not very many positions for parents at Carnival where you actually work alongside the kids in a very relaxed setting throughout the year."
Malia Zimmerman, a sophomore parent division head for White Elephant, is the editor of Hawai'i Reporter and mother to Michael '13.