Hard rock gives back with holiday meal

LAHAINA

Kathy and Harold Anbe would have had to settle for chicken soup and sandwiches for Thanksgiving if it weren’t for the Hard Rock Cafe Maui in Lahaina.

Instead they went to the Front Street eatery Thursday which, for the 24th year, offered the hungry, homeless and less fortunate a free turkey meal, no questions asked.

“I’ve been richly blessed,” said 67-year-old Kathy Anbe of Lahaina who has battled nose cancer and other ailments.

The two receive Social Security and live on fixed incomes.

Kathy Anbe said that someone offered her a free turkey but, without an oven at home, she had no way to cook it. So, instead, they ventured out to be with others, as Kathy’s family is on the Mainland.

“I got to commend Hard Rock,” she said while eating her turkey, mashed potatoes and corn.

Several volunteers came by to offer the couple more drinks or food and just to chat.

Overall an estimated 80 volunteers, including people from Starbucks, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, visitors and members of the general public showed up to help.

“It’s actually fun,” said part-time Maui resident Naina Wood, who was delivering beverages to the crowd while her husband was helping elsewhere. “We decided this is something we would do.”

The event even attracted chef Lyndon Honda, who has experience at various eateries and businesses on Maui and has his own company, Laulima Events and Catering.

He said he reported to the Hard Rock at 8 a.m. Thursday.

“Just put me to work,” he told organizers.

Even though Honda had a private event he was cooking for Thursday, he said he didn’t mind helping out and offering some of his time.

“You can support the community,” he said.

Honda added that anyone could be in the situation the less fortunate are in.

Hard Rock Maui’s Kitchen Manager Joe Curcio had the same mindset as Honda. “It’s good to give back to the community,” he said before his crew started putting out the Thanksgiving meals, complete with pumpkin pie.

For three days, Curcio and his staff have prepared 400 pounds of turkey, 150 pounds of stuffing, 150 pounds of mashed potatoes, 100 pounds of corn and 50 pounds of cranberry sauce.

“You definitely feel the (good) vibe in here today,” Curcio added.

The vibe spread to the diners, some who were homeless.

Jamie Ko said that he lives on the steps of the old Lahaina Courthouse near the famous Banyan Tree. Ko said the food was “good” and added that he had already devoured four plates of lunch.

Friend Daniel Pabelford sat down with Ko, while Pabelford’s wife, Leinaala, volunteered during the event, which ran from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Envoy Vidella Nagasaki of the Lahaina Salvation Army greeted diners at the restaurant’s door.

“I know everyone here,” she said of the restaurant that was packed with more than 100 diners and volunteers during its first hour.

She said she expected close to 400 people to show up for lunch.

According to a statewide “point-in-time” count for this year prepared by the state and the City & County of Honolulu, there were 445 people living in shelters and 514 homeless not in shelters on Maui. Overall, 607 individuals reported to be homeless while 352 of the homeless were families.

The free luncheon was offered in partnership with organizations that assist some of Maui’s homeless and needy, including Lahaina Salvation Army, Feed My Sheep, Women Helping Women and A Cup of Cold Water.

Many of the vendors used for the event donated items. Those vendors include Hansen Foodservice, HFM Foodservice, Pacific Gourmet/Sunfresh, Love’s Bakery and the Da Kine Herb Farm.

Ryan Beenken, operations manager-sales and marketing for Hard Rock Cafe Maui, said that the corporate office picks up the tab for the turkeys and many employees donate their own time to help out.

“It’s very much part of the Hard Rock culture,” he said of the event.

Beenken said it is easy for businesses to set up shop and make money and keep their money, but the Hard Rock also gives back to the community.

He called the Thanksgiving event his “favorite day of the year,” as people continue to thank him for the event months after.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mtanji@mauinews.com.