OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Giving a Hand : Project CHERISH participants help out with chores at seniors’ homes.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES; <i> Brian Huang, a Project CHERISH coordinator, is a senior at Marina High School</i>

Washing windows. Mowing lawns. Vacuuming carpets. Washing dishes. Trimming trees.

For those with limited agility or stamina, these basic chores can seem overwhelming. And it is why they are so grateful when someone pitches in to help.

Each month, 30 to 80 student volunteers from Orange County high schools get together to tackle these tasks for senior citizens. They are participants in Project CHERISH (Community Helpers Engaged In Restoring and Improving Seniors’ Homes). The program is designed to help seniors with the gardening and housekeeping chores they are unable to perform themselves.

One Saturday each month, Key Club members from high schools across the county, their adult Kiwanis Club counterparts and collegiate members of Circle K clubs assemble at the Seniors’ Outreach Center in Huntington Beach.


From there, teams are sent out to assist at the homes of about 15 seniors.

“The people we help are mostly fragile and unable to help themselves. They really appreciate the work and having kids to talk to,” says Frank Disparte, a member of the Huntington Beach Kiwanis Club.

Marina High School Key Club member Natalie Lu agrees, saying, “They really enjoy our company, having someone to talk to. They like being able to see the same kids over and over again.”

And the seniors appreciate the effort. “You kids come out and do a great, wonderful job every time,” said Jo Holly, one of the seniors visited by the volunteers.


CHERISH was established in 1977 by the Kiwanis Club of Huntington Beach and the Huntington Beach Council on Aging. Since then, student volunteers have committed more than 24,500 hours to the project. Participating high schools include Marina, Fountain Valley, Westminster, Ocean View, Huntington Beach, La Quinta, Garden Grove, El Modena and Orange.

Fountain Valley student Christine Hsieh is among those who have volunteered for the program. “It’s a stimulating experience that allows us to benefit the elderly portion of our community,” she said.

The students’ work earned the project a Spirit of Volunteerism award last fall from the Orange County Volunteer Center. The $250 check that came with the award went to buy new tools and expand the program.

The next Project CHERISH is scheduled for Jan. 21, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. To get involved, call one of the project coordinators: Bryan Huang at (714) 848-6201 or Tomio Miyai at (714) 846-4245, both students at Marina High.


If you know a senior who could use the service, call Arleen Stevens, volunteer services coordinator at the Seniors’ Outreach Center, (714) 960-2478.