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Volunteers sought to deliver essential items to kupuna

A nonprofit that helps kupuna stay safe at home during the COVID-19 pandemic by delivering food and other essential items directly to their doors needs more volunteers.

Our Kupuna, which was launched in March, has helped more than 400 kupuna statewide, including 60 on Maui. It is a free service in which the volunteer/sponsor is responsible for running important and necessary errands for the senior with whom they are connected, according to a news release.

There are currently 40 volunteers serving in Maui, program director Vince Abramo said in an email Friday, and about 60 kupuna have utilized the free service.

“My experience being a volunteer for Our Kupuna has been great,” Kihei resident Dana Jaffe said Sunday afternoon. “Not only are we protecting our kupuna from exposing themselves to COVID-19, but I have begun to form a wonderful relationship with my kupuna as well.”

Jaffe has volunteered in Kihei for about six months following the launch of the program and said “we connect and share stories, important information and laughs” on a weekly basis.

“I have learned quite a bit from my kupuna and it has been such a pleasure to help make her life a little bit easier,” she said.

Former Maui resident, Gabe Amey, now a branch manager at Hawaii VA Loans on Oahu, came up with the idea to connect kupuna with resources back in March. The mission is to help seniors during the pandemic by having volunteers check in with them once a week via phone call.

“I found Our Kupuna and thought it might be a perfect way to give back and help the most vulnerable people in our community,” Jaffe said.

Seniors who sign up for the program will be asked what food, supplies or medication is needed for the week so that they can stay home. They are responsible for reimbursing the volunteer for the cost of the items via cash or check, and the volunteer must provide a full receipt of the items purchased.

Interested volunteers must pass a screening, fill out a questionnaire and provide a driver’s license before they are approved.

During a screening process, volunteers will be denied if they or someone in their household tested positive for COVID-19; showed symptoms of the virus in the past 30 days, such as a fever, cough or shortness of breath; or traveled outside of Hawaii in the past 21 days.

Kupuna who sign up for assistance will be called and asked to provide their date of birth, current address, essential items they typically need, whether they have specific medical conditions that volunteer sponsors need to be aware of, and the best time to be contacted.

“Immediately as the lockdown on Maui began and we realized the severity of the virus, I knew I had to do something to help our community,” Jaffe said. “I personally had a family member contract the virus on the Mainland, and I wished so badly I was there to help.

“I knew I would want someone to look after my grandparents to ensure their safety.”

For more information about how to volunteer or to sign up for assistance, visit OurKupuna.com or call (808) 400-4506.

* Dakota Grossman can be reached at dgrossman@mauinews.com.

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