WAILUKU - For a decade, Good Shepherd Episcopal Church has been feeding Maui's needy and those it suspects have "fallen through the cracks" of social services and government assistance.
With a meager budget of around $3,000, at least for this year, the church and its community volunteers cook up free, no-questions-asked, hot meals every Sunday to 40 to 90 people.
"It's a big accomplishment," said the Rev. Marvin Lee Foltz of the 10-year milestone. "It did more than we thought it would do because of the blessing it is to the people who serve" as well as those who are served.
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church member Dolores Garcia, 76, helps out in the church kitchen Sunday. Garcia has been volunteering with the church’s Ka ‘Ohana Kitchen program, which feeds the needy every Sunday, for 10 years.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
The Rev. Marvin Lee Foltz is the minister of Good Shepherd Episcopal Church.
The Maui News / MELISSA TANJI photo
Foltz recalls himself, along with a warden and a small group of church ladies, cutting up cabbage in the church kitchen for coleslaw 10 years ago. That was the beginning of the Ka 'Ohana Kitchen program.
But now there are more than a dozen coordinated volunteer teams, which include church members, community groups and groups from other churches that show up on designated Sundays to cook up meals from chicken adobo to rice soup for the needy community.
To recognize the more than 200 volunteers and the success of the program, the church will hold a free Hoolaulea on Sunday on the Wailuku church grounds. (See box.)
Ka 'Ohana Kitchen Hoolaulea
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church Ka 'Ohana Kitchen Hoolaulea 10th anniversary celebration on Sunday:
* 8:30 a.m. worship service.
* 9:30 a.m. blessing of facilities.
* Food, entertainment, including by Malino and Ola Hou; door prizes; and children's activities.
* Free; monetary donations welcomed to help the program that feeds Maui's needy every Sunday; volunteer teams to help prepare and cook meals also are needed.
For more information and to learn how to help, call 244-4656 or visit the website www.goodshepherdmaui.org.
"I am just amazed how the church and the community are so supportive of helping those who are less fortunate than the rest of us, especially during these hard times when it is so easy to forget the needy," said Mary Lou Mellinger, chairwoman of the church's Outreach Committee that is spearheading the Hoolaulea.
Not only will Sunday be a time for celebration, it will be a time to educate the community about the program as well as raise funds for the program that is facing rising food costs. The church would also like to replace aging kitchen equipment as well as conduct structural repairs of the kitchen that could cost in excess of $50,000.
Cora Brown, the church secretary and a longtime parishioner, said the church is looking for an ice machine and at replacing other kitchen equipment that is just as old as the program.
Foltz added that there are ongoing plumbing issues, major repairs have been done to the refrigerator, and the dishwasher needs ongoing maintenance.
In the past, many of the volunteer groups donated all of the food they prepared as well as their time.
But now that the economy is recovering from a recession and is still weak, Foltz said some of the groups cannot donate as much food as they did before. Now some groups get reimbursed by the church.
Church officials expect food costs this year to soar well beyond their $3,000 food budget, which is separate from the church's gas and electricity bill.
The Ka 'Ohana Kitchen also relies on help from the Maui Food Bank. And Brown scouts sale ads for the best food deals.
On Sunday, Brown, her husband, Larry, and her mother, Dolores Garcia, were in charge of cooking the meal.
Brown was making rice soup, using turkey that she purchased on sale during the Thanksgiving holiday. She also was going to heat up some Costco croissants that she got from the food bank.
Prior to Sunday's preparations, Brown said she and her family, including four sons ages 11 to 19, have been volunteering their time for more than three years.
Brown said she wanted her children to help the community and "just to see how fortunate we are; we don't have to worry where our next meal is coming from."
Garcia, 76, a church member since 1966, was one of the original members who started volunteering with the Ka 'Ohana Kitchen a decade ago.
She also volunteers with other groups within the church that help the food program.
"We don't think it's that long already," Garcia said of the 10-year-old program.
When the program began in February 2002, Foltz said, the church wanted to do outreach because it thought it wasn't doing enough for the community.
"We wanted to say to the community, just be part of this meal. We recognize where we live. There is people in need."
Foltz said that when the program started, Christian Ministry Church was also instrumental in sending out volunteers to help.
That outreach by other religions groups, hula halau and even families continues today, as they will volunteer to cook a meal.
On Sunday, Brown said she expected that the group she had to feed would be a large one, as there were people already hanging around the church hours before the 12:30 p.m. mealtime.
She said the church usually gets larger crowds at the end of the month when money is scarce.
In 2008 and 2009, when the national economy was in a recession, Brown said, she saw "big crowds," although she could not recall the numbers.
But it was different types of people who came to eat; not only the homeless but what appeared to be families whose parents just lost jobs.
"They would come in their nice trucks and their nice aloha shirts," she said. "We knew, gosh, they just lost their jobs, I assume," Brown said.
The church asks no questions of those who come to eat, but people do need to sign in as a requirement for receiving food bank food, as the agency has to comply with government guidelines.
Foltz said although no questions are asked, he knows there are people who come to eat who are affected by substance abuse and therefore cannot qualify to live in a homeless shelter, and some who lost their jobs and cannot qualify for unemployment benefits because they had been fired for cause but have run out of personal resources.
"A lot of times I see people that fly to Maui on a hope and a prayer," he said, noting that people come here without a lot of resources and cannot survive in Hawaii's high-priced climate.
"We see hard-core alcoholics. . . . We see working people who cannot afford housing," he added.
In other cases, he said, people may have lost their identification and therefore cannot apply for assistance.
In all, Foltz said, the crowd he sees at his church varies, but in any case they need help.
"We just don't ask questions. We just consider it our Christian duty and obligation."
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.