Updated on April 25, 2017
National Volunteer week gives us an opportunity to highlight volunteers who make a difference in our community.
by Brandi Salas
They may be retired teachers, but at Christmas time, Clarice Roby, Geraldine Yamashita, Kathy Tanaka, Joanne Ing, and Robin Hermance turn into Santa’s elves. “We volunteer every year,” says Joanne Ing. “It has become a tradition for our group to volunteer for The Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which serves local kids and seniors.”
The Angel Tree program is a way for The Salvation Army to fulfill requests for Christmas gifts for underserved kids and seniors across the islands. Anyone can pick an angel to adopt and fulfill their wish for a toy, new clothes, or an item they need. “We like the concept,” says Kathy. “People really enjoy buying a present for someone in need. We all enjoy seeing the generosity of other people. It’s amazing how some people don’t care about how much it costs to make a complete stranger happy.” The retired teachers all agree that this volunteer opportunity leaves them feeling good about helping others. “Angel Tree is a way to bring a smile to someone’s face anonymously and it really touches my heart when I see children picking out gifts for children they have never met before,” says Kathy. “They understand how important it is to give back and some have made it a tradition each year.”
Volunteers are a valuable resource at The Salvation Army. Thousands volunteer to feed families, bell ring, or collect gifts for the Angel Tree program during the holidays. “Some may think the volunteers provide the service, but the service always comes back to the volunteers. We enjoy seeing happy faces when we volunteer and it brings us joy,” said Kathy.
“That’s true,” agrees Robin Hermance, “As a volunteer, it’s nice to exchange stories with my fellow retired teachers. We all volunteer for The Salvation Army during the holidays and we see so many good things. For me, I don’t get out much from my neighborhood, so The Salvation Army gives me a reason to go to help others and see new places at the same time.”
Last year, The Salvation Army was able to provide more than 24,000 gifts for children and seniors across the islands thanks to thousands of volunteers, caring partners, and friends like you.
Mahalo for being a part of our impact in our island communities!
Updated on March 31, 2017
By Brandi Salas
Nani knows everyone who comes to the Homeless Drop-In Center at The Salvation Army Lahaina Lighthouse Corps. “I see these people because I am one of them. We come here to take a shower, have a hot meal, and much more,” she says. “We are all here because of certain circumstances and bad decisions.”
Nani is a 38-year-old mother of two little girls. She grew up in Lahaina all her life. “Some people think living in Maui is a dream, a paradise, but it’s not like that for some of us,” she says. Nani explains that she spent most of her childhood in a foster home after her mother’s boyfriend molested her. “My mother was a drug addict with a horrible boyfriend. I went into foster care at the age of six and…well…being a child of the system, I started rebelling and experimenting with drugs in my teenage years. I got into meth and pills. These are the things I was exposed to at such a young age,” she says.
The Lahaina Lighthouse Corps boasts one of the most compassionate homeless Drop-In Centers in the area. Envoys Kevin and Vidella Nagasaki run the center and make sure every person is clean, fed, and getting the help they need. “Uncle Kevin and Aunty Vidella have become like family to me,” says Nani. “They just want to love every person that walks through these doors because they know that these people have been through hard times or are victims of some sort.”
Approximately 50 people visit the Drop-In Center every day. The showers are stocked with shampoo, soap, and toothpaste. Men can shave their beards and women have access to feminine products. Caseworker Aranda Kahaialii supervises the showers to make sure everything runs smoothly.
She says, “My job is to make sure every person here is treated like a person. We don’t see homeless people as throw-away people, we try to give them every reason to feel dignified, to feel like they can secure and hold down a job, and to be somebody that can contribute to the community.” She and another Caseworker assist clients in their search for jobs and housing. “Giving them access to our facilities may help them feel hopeful and ready for a clean start,” said Aranda.
Nani is one of the few who stay after the Drop-In Center closes to help Envoy Kevin and his staff clean, restock, and prepare for the next meal. “Uncle Kevin cooks every meal. He’s here from early morning to late at night. Aunty Vidella is supposed to be retired, but she works for free to help others like us,” says Nani.
“One thing Uncle Kevin and Aunty Vidella taught me is to love one another as God loves us,” says Nani. “They are trying to help my family get into a home of our own. My husband works two jobs while I take care of the kids during the day. It will happen soon. I have faith that it will.”
Armed with a small staff of five, The Salvation Army Lahaina Lighthouse Corps serves thousands of people each week through its feeding program, Homeless Drop-In Center, case management services, mobile food distribution services, and worship services. They also counsel and refer clients to drug treatment programs on O‘ahu.
The Corps relies heavily on volunteers, donations from its Thrift Store, hotel partners, and community donations. Many lives are changed each year.
Learn more at lahaina.salvationarmy.org.
Updated on February 24, 2017
This morning, The Salvation Army Family Services Office (FSO) and Pathway of Hope (POH) conducted a homeless outreach to those living in encampments near the Karsten Thot Bridge in Wahiawa. There are two encampments on each side of the bridge. Guided by the organization Alea Bridge, our staff had encountered between 20 to 30 people. Most of the others had gone out to work or gather food. Here is the outreach visit through the eyes of our Marketing & Communications Manager Brandi Salas, who accompanied The Salvation Army team to capture their work.
“We usually do homeless outreach in Downtown Honolulu, because that’s where we see them the most,” says Director of Pathway of Hope Anna Stone. “We’ve partnered with Alea Bridge to help us extend our reach and help people in areas unfamiliar to us. This is the first time we’re checking out the encampments in Wahiawa.”
Guided by two brothers, Alea Bridge Founder and Director of Operations Joe Acosta, and Executive Director Phil Acosta, The Salvation Army team heads into the first encampment, handing out bottled water, clean clothes, and hygiene kits for men and women. FSO Caseworker, Victor Cordero spent a few minutes sorting out hygiene kits for men and women, explaining, “In our field, most think that we distribute food and water. But we know that in order to secure jobs and stay healthy, every person needs a toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo.” Each hygiene kit includes items he mentions, including feminine hygiene products and shaving supplies.
The Salvation Army hopes to identify those in Wahiawa who are willing to find stable jobs and housing, which is no easy task. The most common barrier for the homeless is the lack of documents such as having a State ID or birth certificate. “Those barriers really prevent these individuals from getting access to medical care or affordable housing,” says Phil Acosta. “They don’t have the required documents to apply for housing, nor do they have the resources to get them.”
Walking along the first encampment, you’ll find 55-year-old George Fung, who goes by Priest, a leader-type who keeps an eye out for his neighbors and makes sure they are keeping their areas clean. He says, “Many of the homeless here have been born into poverty or faced unforeseen circumstances. But some of them are so resilient. In our encampment, we try to keep our areas tidy, our bodies clean as best we can, and most of us hold down jobs. We have people here who are capable of great work, but lack the necessary documents and a physical address to apply for certain things.”
Priest thanks the team for bringing him and his neighbors clean clothes, water, and hygiene kits. As he walks us out, I ask, “What do you wish people knew about you and your neighbors, who are so capable of working and becoming active in the community?” He responds, “I want them to know that we are the same. We are the same. We are the same. Some people were born with money and opportunity, some of us were born into poverty. We just have to break the cycle to see each other as equals. We have people, like most people you know, that wake-up, wash up, go to work, return home with some food and they do it all over again. The only difference is that the home they go to is in a tent.”
Preparing to cross Kamehameha Highway to the second encampment, we come across 56-year-old Moana Fick-Chung, a woman that lives near Priest. She takes a hygiene kit, a pair of jeans, and two bottles of water. “You notice we don’t have children here,” she says. “We feel this is not an appropriate place for children to grow up. They need to be in a home and feel safe. We’re all adults here and we can take care of ourselves.” She has been homeless for 20 years.
The second encampment is much bigger than the first. Joe and Phil introduce us to Orlando, Wendell, and Ipo. The three give us access to the entire encampment. “Let me tidy up a bit before you step in here,” says 54-year-old Wendell Kawelo. He warns me to watch my step as he is trying to grow ti leaf plants along his tent. “I wanted to make it nicer, but the rain really makes things slippery and wet. No help that we live next to the river,” he says.
We distribute the rest of our kits and water to the few that are reluctant to leave their tents. Most of them go to work, while some stay behind and watch everyone’s belongings. “I want to thank you, Salvation Army. We’ve never seen you folks here before,” says 54-year-old Orlando Apilando. “I’ve heard of you guys and what you do, but I’m glad you made it out here to see what it’s like. We are hidden most times, invisible when you pass by here on your way to visit the North Shore, but we are here and we are in need.”
The Salvation Army is planning on conducting more homeless outreach visits in Wahiawa and along the North Shore. “There are nearly 250 more homeless on the North Shore in need of services,” says Joe. “It is often difficult to get outreach groups out there because they are so spread out. But the need is always there.”
Note: FSO and POH are two Salvation Army programs that work closely together to bridge emergency disaster services, basic needs assistance, rental assistance, and case management. The small staff of both programs works towards one goal: to provide tools for individuals and families to secure stable jobs and safe homes. FSO currently conducts a weekly homeless outreach in Downtown Honolulu and works with POH and a number of other agencies to identify and assist homeless individuals that are in need of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, case management and other Salvation Army services.
Learn more about our programs and how you can help us make a difference by visiting hawaii.salvationarmy.org.
Updated on February 16, 2017
This past Sunday, The Salvation Army was one of three organizations to receive ukuleles from The Ukulele Foundation at the 9th Annual Ukulele Picnic of Hawaii at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Thanks to Mr. Kazuyuki Sekiguchi, Executive Producer of the event and founder of the foundation, keiki across Oahu (Honolulu, Waianae, Kaneohe, and Kapolei) will have access to ukuleles in their music programs.
Mr. Sekiguchi presented the first ukulele to a Salvation Army keiki and said the donations were to “inspire the next generation” to perpetuate the art of ukulele playing and create beautiful music.
The Salvation Army thanks the Ukulele Foundation of Hawaii for their generous donation to thousands of keiki served throughout our programs.
Updated on February 13, 2017
Our Chief Development Officer, Jennifer Hee, has been recognized in Hawaii Business Magazine’s 8th Annual 20 for the Next 20: Hawaii’s People to Watch. The 20 for the Next 20 honors Hawaii’s emerging leaders who are energetic, innovative, and intelligent. Hawaii Business Magazine highlights her strategic leadership skills and passion for serving others. Read the full article here.
It is an honor and a privilege to work under such great leadership. We congratulate you, Jennifer, for showing us how to serve our community efficiently, passionately, and with the best intentions. – The Development Team