Updated on April 13, 2016
“It’s an honor to serve others in my community,” said Salvation Army volunteer Mal Chan. Kauai-born Mal, 83, visits The Salvation Army Divisional Headquarters in Manoa each week. She helps out with inputting data, preparing for events, and even sending Thank You letters to supporters throughout the community.
“I’ve always been active. After working in the travel industry for many years, I retired and realized that I didn’t like to stay home. I wanted to do something, so I looked for ways to volunteer and ended up at The Salvation Army,” said Mal.
Mal admits she thought The Salvation Army’s role in the community was to collect money through red kettles and serve underprivileged families, but her perception changed once she started getting involved. “I realized that there are so many programs that help all kinds of people in Hawaii. From babies all the way to seniors, there are so many programs that educate and rehabilitate. I love contributing to it,” said Mal.
“Volunteering gives you purpose and comes from the heart, it’s my favorite way of giving back,” she said. Mal also likes that she can help people by just donating a few hours of her day to The Salvation Army and other nonprofits in Honolulu.
The Salvation Army Hawaiian & Pacific Islands Division is blessed with thousands of volunteers that help change lives in our island communities. We’d like to say thank you to Mal and our many volunteers for their service!
For volunteer opportunities, click here.
Posted on March 18, 2016
The Salvation Army’s Family Intervention Services Emergency Shelter in Hilo has served thousands of the Hawai‘i Island’s troubled children in the last 20 years. The shelter functions as a sanctuary for children ages 11 to 18 who do not feel safe or cared for at home. It’s also a home for foster children transitioning between families, and a place that can provide youth with the necessary skills to become successful, independent adults.
Note: The children often call The Salvation Army Family Intervention Services (FIS) staff ‘Aunty’ or ‘Uncle’ as a sign of endearment and respect, signifying the sense of ‘ohana that FIS seeks to instill in each child that walks through its doors.
A Child of the State
Twelve-year-old Nellie M. was in the back of a police car when she arrived at the Emergency Shelter in Hilo. She was upset with her parents for many reasons: they used drugs in their home, hit each other often, and abused her and her younger sister. Nellie made some bad choices such as smoking marijuana and running away from home. Despite her own vices, her mother called the police to take Nellie away, saying she was beyond parental control.
The police handed Nellie over to the Emergency Shelter staff, who asked her to detail the series of events that led to her arrival. Nellie wanted no part of it. “My own mother didn’t want to bring me home. I felt like no one cared about me, so why should I care? I didn’t need to explain my reasons for being there,” she said. Minutes later, a crisis worker walked in, “She asked me to call her Aunty Gabi. I don’t know what it was about her, but she made me feel like I could trust her with my story and assured me that my parents were not able to hurt me anymore. Those were the most comforting words I had heard in a long time.”
Running from “The System” and towards a better future
Nellie stayed in the FIS Emergency Shelter for a few weeks placed under protective custody immediately and later into a foster home. “I ran away after a week and returned to the shelter. I was sure that they would keep me safe, but as a child of the state, I had to be placed with another family,” she said. It was a cycle that would repeat itself for the next five years.
By age 17, Nellie had been in a total of 20 foster homes, was labeled ‘a runner,’ and believed her chances of a life outside ‘the system’ were better than growing up with strangers. She was one of a handful of juveniles sentenced to Juvenile Drug Court on the Big Island, a restrictive program to get drug addicts and dealers on the right path. After a few more failed placements, Drug Court was able to get Nellie placed back at The Salvation Army FIS Emergency Shelter under their long term program where she was given a bed, taught how to cook, clean, and plan for her future. This was the first time she had been back at the shelter since she was 12 years old.
That was when she met Uncle Kalani, the FIS Independent Living Program coordinator, who helps foster children in securing financial aid, scholarships, teaches them life skills, and guides them towards a brighter future. “He made me realize I didn’t want to live the life I was living. In less than a year, I was going to be an adult and he made sure that I was going to be prepared,” said Nellie.
“My job is to get these kids an education, teach them life skills and manage finances, and make them realize that they can reach for opportunities that will give them a better life than what they have now,” said Uncle Kalani. “They come to my program thinking they’re going to be living a life of freedom once they turn 18-years-old. I present them with reality and educational opportunities, showing them that true freedom only comes from being educated and career driven.” “I wanted to go to college and be something when I grow up. Uncle Kalani and Uncle Glenn, The Salvation Army FIS Program Manager, were the first people that made me think about how I would accomplish my goals – not just let me dream. They were with me every step of the way,” said Nellie. “They did everything they could. They pushed me to apply for housing, scholarships, and more. By the time I left the shelter, I was accepted into a community college, selected my major, was awarded $8,000 in scholarships, and I didn’t have to worry about paying for school or anything else,” said Nellie. “They helped inspire me to get my Masters in Social Work (MSW) and become a counselor.”
A home she can call her own
Today, Nellie is 27-years-old, a happy mother of two and lives in Hilo. This May, she will graduate with her MSW and continue her work as a program coordinator at Family Programs Hawai‘i. She works directly with foster children and gives them resources, skill building, or recreational opportunities that they do not have access to. “I know what it’s like to be in their shoes. I want to be able to give them hope. Even though their lives are messy right now, I want to show them that they can be the change.” For Nellie, she can always count on her ‘ohana at The Salvation Army. “This is a place someone (like me) without a family can call home. That is a place I can always go back to no matter what I need.”
For more information on The Salvation Army Family Intervention Services, click here or call 808.959.5855.
Posted on March 3, 2016
by Rob Noland, Director, Camp Homelani
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. (Genesis 1:29-30)
Camp Homelani and Revolution Hawaii are getting into the banana farming business. Early this year Homelani groundskeeper Steven Dempsey and a crew from Revolution Hawaii began preparing a large plot of ground in order to plant the camps first banana patch. Weeds were cleared, soil was tilled, trenches were dug and pipes were fitted. Finally, 13 small apple banana plants were lovingly placed in their new homes with the hope of one day producing a crop that will be able to educate, minister to and feed a host of hungry campers.
Dempsey says it will take about a year before those campers get to taste this first crop but it will be well worth the wait. While much smaller than the traditional bland bananas found at grocery stores, the compact apple banana has a firmer texture and packs a mouthful of sweet tangy flavor. The healthy snack is a sought after local Hawaiian favorite that is enjoyed by both children and adults alike.
An interesting fact is that each plant produces only one hand of bananas in its lifetime. In order to maximize the gardens potential, each tree will be cut down after it has given its fruit, allowing new ones to grow up in its place. The hope is that once the plants begin to reproduce, the patch will grow in numbers and there will be bananas ready to harvest year round. This is good news for Camp Homelani chef David Lucas who not only is responsible for making the meals but also purchasing the food. He believes that by going directly from farm to table camp will be able to save money as well as give campers a treat by serving fresh home grown fruit. “We may even be able to earn income by selling Homelani bananas at the local farmers market,” says Lucas.
Apple Bananas are just the first step in Camp Homelani’s quest for self-sustainability. Already two different strains of 25 tiny papaya trees have sprouted from seeds purchased by Dempsey from the University of Hawaii seed lab. Right now they are enjoying life in a large starter tray but soon they will be transplanted into individual pots and when they are about a foot tall will join the banana plants in the Homelani garden. Pineapple, passion fruit, lime, grapefruit, chili pepper, onions, lettuce, beans, peas, tomatoes, various herbs and even coffee are soon to be planted and eventually added to the menu. There are even long range plans to grow Samoan coconut, mango and avocado trees throughout the camp.
The best part about this future Garden of Eden is the wonderful teaching opportunities it will provide for the multitude of campers that stay at Homelani during the summer and throughout the year. Its exciting to think that we will be able to show children first hand how plants grow and provide food. Campers will have a chance to help contribute by starting their own seedlings, tending to the full grown mature plants as well as harvesting, tasting and enjoying the bountiful produce.
However, our ultimately goal is to be able to present to all campers a creative, powerful God who not only grows gardens but more importantly cares for and loves each one of them unconditionally. In fact, He’s bananas for them!
Updated on January 29, 2016
A soccer mom who lost her way scores the biggest goal of her life for the love of her children.
A few years ago, Chasity was a mom of five that did it all. Living in Kaua‘i, she worked full time, took a full load of classes at the community college, spread herself thin between her children’s soccer practices and shuttling them to after school activities.“I was doing it all as a single mother. It was so overwhelming that I started making bad decisions. I knew some friends that did ice and once I tried it, I was hooked. Next thing I know, I was addicted,” she said.
Not too long after she became addicted, she became pregnant.“I remember giving birth in the hospital. Child Protective Services (CPS) was there to take my daughter Kirie, just a few days later, they took my newborn, Nevaeh,” Chasity recalls.“It was at that point when they were taken from me that I realized I chose ice over my own kids. I had to change.”
Chasity’s next move was to get help. She found The Salvation Army Family Treatment Services (FTS) online and booked her ticket to O‘ahu. Her four oldest children moved in with their dad and grandparents while she sought treatment. After just two months of treatment, The Salvation Army reunited Chasity with Kirie; arrangements were made so that Chasity could visit Nevaeh in Kaua‘i for four hours every other week.“I had to bond with my baby. She was a child of the State and I wasn’t going to let her forget who her mother was,” said Chasity.
"Being away from Nevaeh hurt more than anything. I needed her to know who I was," said Chasity.
On January 20, 2016, Chasity, now a graduate of FTS, and Kirie boarded a plane back to Kaua‘i to be reunited with Nevaeh. CPS arrived with a sleeping Nevaeh in tow,“I ran to the car, opened the door, and said ‘Nevaeh, mommy’s here!’ She reached out to me and it was the most touching experience. I fought for 17 months to become a good mother, a better person for my kids. I felt so proud of myself.”
"The Salvation Army reunited me with Kirie after two months of treatment. Seeing her at the baggage claim, running towards me was such an emotional moment. I knew I was on the right path to get my life together," said Chasity.
“I had to fight. I fought with everything I had to be with my baby,” said Chasity.“You wouldn’t believe the challenges I faced, the barriers, thoughts that I had saying that I couldn’t get better. But a mother’s love is so strong, it pushes you to show up, be there for your babies, and make better choices.”
The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope case manager, Cameo McQuade, works with Chasity to keep her accountable, connect her to resources she is eligible for, and finds ways to get her involved in the community.
Chasity is now a client at The Salvation Army Pathway of Hope, where she is receiving resources for affordable child care, secured a job at Jamba Juice Hawaii, and is working her way to providing for her children.“My heart is so full of love. is Valentine’s Day, I’ll be taking Kirie and Nevaeh to the zoo with some of our church friends from The Salvation Army.”
Mahalo to our friends at Central Pacific Bank for their donation of annual zoo passes for our clients and graduates of our FTS program.