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Thanksgiving served with a side of aloha

Groups arrange free takeout feasts, virtual fundraisers in pandemic

Salvation Army Lahaina Lighthouse Corps volunteer Mary Burcham (left) and Envoy Vidella Nagasaki work on a long stack of lunches ready to be delivered to 200 West Maui seniors Tuesday morning as part of the reimagined Kupuna Thanksgiving Luncheon. Before COVID-19, the luncheon was traditionally held at nearby Waiola Church. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped neighbors and organizations from helping those in need this holiday season through chef-made takeout meals and virtual fundraisers to combat hunger.

Hale Kau Kau, a program of St. Theresa’s Church in Kihei, continues to serve those who are hungry every day, but the usual Thanksgiving feast that draws crowds of about 200 people to the Kihei Stawasz Hall will be modified to meet health and safety protocols on Thursday.

Usually, families in need, kupuna and the unsheltered all gather at St. Theresa’s on Turkey Day for the traditional fixings organized by 70 or so volunteers, but “we cannot do what we usually do,” secretary Mary Trotto said.

“We will be serving a hot meal from the kitchen from noon to 2 p.m.,” Trotto said. “We will be limited to the number of volunteers who will be able to be in the kitchen at any one time.”

However, Trotto added that while details are being worked out, everyone is welcome to stop by for a hot Thanksgiving meal on Thursday afternoon, though guests must be mindful of the health and safety protocols in place.

Kihei Charter School ninth grade math teacher Jerry Haugg carries a frozen turkey and fixings to a car Thursday. — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Hale Kau Kau drivers have been delivering meals to the elderly and disabled in their homes in South Maui throughout the pandemic, providing about 80 meals each day.

Trotto said that they also serve those who stop by the church’s kitchen, about 40 to 70 people on any given day.

“We put on our gloves and masks and keep our distance,” she said. “We provide masks for our guests who do not have them, we require social distancing when they sit down on our picnic tables and we have water and soap for all to wash up both before and after their meal.”

A helping hand to healthy food

Other Maui residents are also looking for ways to feed families in need, especially after a tough year. Gary Marks launched the We Love Hawaii Food Project earlier this year to provide free and healthy food options to households where one or both parents were unemployed due to the coronavirus; however, he wanted to expand its outreach.

Thanksgiving turkeys and boxes of fixings are carried to cars Thursday afternoon at the South Maui Community Park in Kihei as part of the Hawaii Emergency Laulima Partnership program facilitated by Maui Economic Opportunity and Maui County. Helping out Thursday are Kihei Charter School Student Body President Andrei Umali (from right), Hannah Greenhalgh, Kihei Charter School ninth grade math teacher Jerry Haugg, Kihei Charter 10th graders Bianca Haugg and Kiana Haugg and Community Liaison for the Mayor, Don Couch. The care packages for people impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic also included gift certificates to a grocery store and were paid for with CARES Act funds. A total of 6,000 turkeys and boxes were to be given out over two days at four locations. Recipients had to qualify and receive a voucher in the mail. Couch said counterfeit vouchers have been circulated on the island, but there is a system to confirm which ones are invalid. “With everyone staying at home, people feel excluded,” Yumali said. “This is a great way to show that we’re here for them.” — The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo

Through a partnership with Hawaiian Moons, a small natural food store in Kihei, We Love Hawaii offers families up to $100 to $150 to be spent at the store on nutritious grocery items.

With Thanksgiving around the corner, Marks said “it’s time for a new We Love Hawaii initiative” to help families, whether employed or unemployed.

“With tourists coming back to the island, and jobs coming back, there may be hundreds if not thousands of previously unemployed family members starting to find work again, but still being in very tenuous economic shape, many having been unemployed since March, and having their unemployment insurance run out,” Marks said last week. “So we want to make sure that they are still being offered our gift of care and concern to help get them back on their feet, and not exclude them simply because they are going back to work.”

In late October, Marks’ cause raised about $1,600 in donations through a GoFundMe initiative and helped feed about 50 unemployed families, pushing the total to over 200 families, or about 4,000 nutritious meals since the program launched.

As of mid-November, Marks also said the We Love Hawaii bank account was back up to about $10,000, which could help more than 100 additional families.

“We definitely still have room for families in need,” he said.

Marks encourages neighbors to spread the word and reach out to those in need via social media, or in other safe and socially distant ways.

“This is about neighbors helping neighbors in our local community until the money runs out,” he said. “It’s a simple but powerful goal.”

Anyone in need of assistance can fill out a form online at welovehawaii.org. Donations can also be made on the website or on GoFundMe at https://gf.me/u/y2m5k8.

For more information, to donate or to sign up for services, visit the project’s website.

Paddling for a cause

Another annual benefit, the Paddle for Hunger event, is adjusting to the pandemic by turning virtual this year, starting last Thursday and ending Thanksgiving Day. Hosted by Hawaiian Paddle Sports, the event is aiming to raise awareness and to help feed the hungry through the Maui Food Bank.

“We wanted to keep the spirit of Paddle For Hunger alive, and continue to support the Maui Food Bank,” Hawaiian Paddle Sports owner Timothy Lara said in a news release. “The virtual Paddle For Hunger is an easy way to give back and support a family in need this holiday season.”

Participants can join by signing up online and paddling via outrigger canoe, V1, surfski, paddleboard, surfboard or any floating device at the time and location of their choice. Monetary or food donations will support the Maui Food Bank.

The race course typically runs from Kihei Canoe Club to the Kealia Pond river mouth and back, but wherever people choose to paddle this year, they are asked to record their time and take photos of their experience. Photos can be posted to Instagram or Facebook by tagging @MauiFoodBank and @HawaiianPaddleSports. Use the hashtag #Paddle4Hunger 2020, or post directly to the Paddle for Hunger 2020 Facebook event page.

Participants are advised to avoid Kihei Canoe Club on Thanksgiving morning while there is club practice.

To sign up for the virtual race, visit https://mauifoodbank.org/project/paddle-for-hunger/.

Additionally, a $25 donation made directly to the Maui Food Bank can gift a Holiday Meal Box to a family in need this season, according to the food bank’s website.

More than 32,000 people in Maui County do not know where their next meal is coming from, the food bank said. The organization is in need of financial donations and food, such as canned goods, cereal, rice and pasta.

Items can be dropped in any Maui Food Bank collection bin around town. Search the website to view food drop off and distribution locations across Maui. Financial donations are accepted online at mauifoodbank.org.

Maui Mall is also helping out the food bank with a Thanksgiving drive that was set to run from Nov. 1 to 20 but has now been extended to Nov. 30, the mall announced Friday. Participating merchants, which have bins for shelf-safe donations within their stores, include Cricket Wireless, Subway, Genki Sushi, IHOP, Maui County Business Resources, Whole Foods, Baskin Robbins, Supercuts, T.J. Maxx and A Great Cut and Style. Check or cash donations are also accepted, and checks can be made payable to Maui Food Bank.

“Due to overwhelming need and terrific community response, Maui Mall has decided to extend the Thanksgiving Food Drive,” said Brian Yano, group manager of Maui Retail, JLL. “We are grateful to those who have already donated, and we encourage everyone to continue to support the drive and help feed Maui families this holiday season.”

For more information on the food drive, visit www.maui mall.com/events.

Feasting from a distance

In West Maui, the LahainaTown Action Committee plans to host the 31st Annual Kokua For Those in Need, an ongoing Thanksgiving tradition of feeding families and individuals with the help of local businesses and community members.

Since people cannot gather together as in previous years at the King Kamehameha III Elementary School cafeteria for a feast, the committee is hosting an online fundraiser to gather donations for about 80 or so chronically houseless individuals, President Sne Patel said Tuesday.

A $25 donation will provide a new shirt, pair of slippers and a chef-prepared takeout Thanksgiving meal. Patel said that individuals have already been selected and given instructions to ensure a socially distant event.

Patel said the committee partnered with Maui Rescue Mission in raising funds for the virtual event, and that items will be delivered on Thanksgiving Day.

For more information, visit the committee’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ LahainaTownActionCommittee/. To donate, visit https:// www.event brite.com/e/kokua-for-those-in-need-virtual-fundraising-event-tickets-129234472787.

The Salvation Army is also modifying traditional Thanksgiving meals and outreach this year due to COVID-19.

With more people facing hardship, The Salvation Army has been seeking funds to serve those in need this holiday season. Donations will help with rent and utility assistance, basic needs, food items, meals, youth programs and more.

“With the generous help of corporate partners, volunteers, advisory boards, staff and Salvation Army officers, we’ve been able to shift our traditional Thanksgiving observances around the state to reach thousands of those in need in our island communities in new ways,” said Major Jeff Martin, Hawaiian & Pacific Islands divisional leader. “We humbly ask the community for their continued support and encourage those in need of a meal to reach out to the Salvation Army Corps in their local community.”

The Salvation Army Kahului Corps and the University of Hawaii Maui College will distribute 600 Thanksgiving meals via drive-thru distribution starting at 11 a.m. Wednesday, while supplies last, at 310 W. Kaahumanu Ave.

The distribution site is the parking lot off of Wahinepio Avenue. Vehicles will be allowed to line up one hour beforehand. Walk-ups are OK for those without vehicles.

For more information, call The Salvation Army Kahului Corps at 871-6270.

At Lahaina Lighthouse Corps, located at 131 Shaw Street, to-go meals are available Monday through Friday. Breakfast is served from 8 to 10 a.m., lunch from noon to 12:30 p.m., and dinner from 7 to 9 p.m.

With the assistance of several local churches, The Salvation Army delivered 200 Thanksgiving meals to seniors in the community on Tuesday, with a grab-and-go lunch scheduled for this coming Tuesday.

Homeless outreach is typically from 5 to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Showers, laundry and phone calls are also available from 8 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday by appointment. For more information about services or the grab-and-go lunch, call the Lahaina Lighthouse Corps at 661-5335.

At The Salvation Army’s Molokai location on 900 Kalae Highway, food bag distributions are available Monday through Friday by appointment.

The organization is also working with local grocery stores to collect donations. Through Nov. 30, customers at all Foodland and Sack N Save stores in Hawaii will be able to make donations at checkout through Foodland’s “Share a Holiday Feast” program, according to a news release.

Those donations will be turned into Foodland gift certificates and distributed by Salvation Army officers to families in need on each island where the donations are received.

People can also continue to support the 2020 Red Kettle Campaign virtually by donating to the Kahului or Lahaina Red Kettle, or businesses can become a sponsor.

Monetary donations to support The Salvation Army can be made online at hawaii.salvationarmy.org.

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

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