LIHUE — When the bell rang, Tamara Akau reached down, picked up the 20-pound bag of rice from a large pile, and placed it on another nearby pile.
Seconds later, a cashier rang a bell again. This time, it was Kaytlen Akau’s turn as she hefted the yellow and white bag and moved it over.
Two more down. Hopefully, hundreds to go.
While the sisters often received help with all that heavy lifting, they were than happy to do what was necessary to help the Hawaii Foodbank, Kauai Branch, and those who rely on it.
Tamara Akau, Miss Garden Isle USA, and Kaytlen Akau, Miss Garden Isle Teen USA, spent seven hours at Safeway in Hokulei Village for what was billed “RiceGiving for Thanksgiving.”
The idea was to encourage customers to purchase bags of the Hinode white medium grain calrose stacked near the front register and donate it. There were fliers throughout the store alerting customers to the effort.
“It’s been going great,” said Tamara Akau. “People have been generous.”
Tamara, 22, and Kaytlen, 17, each wore tiaras and the accompanying sash with their title. They stood behind the mountain of rice bags, and when the chime of a bell filled the air, they went into action.
“We just want to do what we can,” added Kaytlen Akau.
They’ve done quite a bit, said Wes Perreira, director of the Hawaii Foodbank on Kauai.
Their efforts Sunday resulted in 132 bags of rice purchased and donated, coming out to 2,640 pounds, which will feed hundreds of families and last about a month.
He said rice is a staple, always in need, and the food bank purchases 70 percent of the rice it has in stock. Supplies were low before Sunday’s drive.
“Anything we can do to close the gap on that, we’ll do it,” Perreira said.
The facility in Puhi needs 70,501 pounds of rice for distribution in the fiscal year 2018. Of this amount, 17,025 pounds, or 24 percent of the food bank’s rice needs, come from donations.
He said the Akau sisters “have good hearts.”
“They have helped us a number of times, as Girl Scouts and throughout the years growing up,” Perreira said.
This time, they asked Perreira what the food bank needed. When he said rice, they went about finding a way to get it in time for Thanksgiving.
“We really appreciate these young ladies and the way they stepped up,” he said.
As for Tamara and Kaytlen, when the bell rang, they smiled and said “Thank you.” Then, time to lift another 20-pound bag of rice. Twist, turn and drop.
“We’re getting a good workout in,” Tamara said, laughing.