LAHAINA - Lahaina Public Library went bananas last week - boxes, that is - thanks to super volunteer John Tryggestad.
Tryggestad, who lives in Kihei, arranged for produce managers at Costco, Foodland, Safeway and Times Supermarket to save banana boxes to pack 35,000 books for the Rotary Club of Lahaina's facelift of Lahaina Public Library. He collected them daily for a whopping 45 straight days.
The good-humored volunteer who likes to joke would fill his van and make two trips a day to the Maui Friends of the Library Bookstore in Puunene, where the 750 boxes he picked up were stored before transfer to the library last week.
Volunteers last week Tuesday began packing 35,000 books to empty Lahaina Public Library before the start of a $280,000 Rotary Club refurnishing project. Volunteers (from left, front row — Barbara Potts, Jim Fahnestock, Libby Pannwitt, Lynn Tenney, Cindy Taufa and Ben Bland; back row — John Tryggestad and Kim Camacho) filled more than 300 banana boxes during a four-hour shift.
Super volunteer Tryggestad, describing himself as a former Twinkies driver, works for the community seven days a week - sometimes on three different projects a day.
He didn't stop with just gathering boxes. He was on-hand with 28 volunteers to bring the boxes into the library and hand truck the book-laden boxes back into trucks.
The next day, he returned at 8 a.m. to disassemble bookshelves and move more filled boxes. Some 250 were packed by a dozen volunteers the first day.
Volunteers who joined in the packing ranged from Kim Camache, a newcomer to Maui who is looking for a school teaching job and plans to start a nonprofit, to Rotarian and longtime Mauian Greg Nelson, general manager of Napili Kai Beach Resort.
Stopping for a break during packing, volunteer Diana Longobardi of Napili said she was considering how Maui has lost its small town atmosphere as she drove to Lahaina to volunteer.
Then she remembered, "When you really get into the community, you see an outpouring of support."
Willingness of people to volunteer, she said, is "awesome."
Tryggestad believes that volunteerism here flourishes, because "people who come here are adventurous. They have had successful lives, and now they want to give back."
Many of the volunteers are retirement age, but instead of becoming couch potatoes, they lead active lives helping not only the library, but cleaning up beaches and working in places like the Friends of the Library Bookstore.
Tryggestad spends his time monitoring species of endangered fish for the state Department of Land and Natural Resources, working on beach cleanups that attract as many as 40 volunteers on Monday mornings, and selling books at the Puunene bookstore, where he also serves as janitor and jack-of-all-trades.
The super volunteer, a former driver in Minneapolis for Hostess Cupcakes, maker of Twinkies, "retired" and moved to Maui seven years ago but has kept on going at the library book packing like an energizer bunny. Quitting at 8 p.m., the 65-year-old said "the Lord blessed me with energy. Yesterday was pure fun.
"This exciting project is a way of giving back, and then there is the warm fuzziness you get with it, too," he explained while hefting another box.
Wednesday morning, new volunteers had a talk story fest. John Lewis and Anna Barbeau reminisced about "the old days when the Lahaina Broiler, Banyan Inn and Blue Max were popular" as they packed away.
They worked and worked but also made new friends, becoming even more a part of the community.