Thanksgiving comes early

KOLOA — There were still leftover Halloween treats and decorations on the table when Manette DeCosta showed up at the Koloa Neighborhood Center yesterday.

DeCosta, marketing manager, logo manager and lunch manager at Keoki’s Paradise in Poipu Shopping Village, was on her annual delivery of Thanksgiving lunch for members of the Koloa Senior Center, the lunch coinciding with the delivery of the fresh fruits and vegetables through the Kauai Food Bank’s senior produce program.

That created a scene of frenzied activity, but that didn’t bother Betty Kataoka, who quickly lined the feast on a table in preparation for the luncheon.

Kataoka, who is in charge of the Wednesday lunches (and scheduling) at the Koloa center, said that Keoki’s leaders have been providing the free lunch for at least five years.

Dolly Sugawa-Brierley, the center’s president, explained that the arrangement is reciprocal. The Koloa seniors enjoy a Valentine’s Day meal at Keoki’s and, in turn, Keoki’s chefs and managers deliver Thanksgiving lunch to the seniors.

“It’s really nice. They’re so sweet,” DeCosta said. “You get to see former teachers, and grandmothers. Next year, I think we should volunteer to actually serve them.”

DeCosta explained that this is part of Keoki’s Paradise’s community-outreach program, and the food is prepared by Frank Sweeney, the restaurant’s first chef.

Kataoka said that the arrangement started—when she visited the eatery some time ago, and while trying to make arrangements for Thanksgiving, got into a conversation with Sweeney, who volunteered the meals.

“They’ve been doing it ever since,” Kataoka said. “But, you have to talk to the first chef. He was the one responsible for this.”

Sugawa-Brierley said that the seniors work hard at their bazaars and sales so they can enjoy these lunches and other outings.

She said the funds they generate at the sales help keep the costs to the members down.

“They pay for half,” Sugawa-Brierley said. “The center pays for the remaining half.”

Under this arrangement, the Koloa Senior Center members have already penned in Christmas at Wailua Family Restaurant, and an end-of-year celebration at Wong’s Chinese Restaurant in Hanapepe.

That will be followed by their annual Valentine’s Day meal at Keoki’s.

Kataoka said that, in addition to the meals provided by Keoki’s personnel on Wednesday, the seniors would also enjoy ham contributed by Koloa resident, veteran and senior citizen Paul Okamura.

Dessert was provided by center officials.

Sugawa-Brierley said that the meals can come on any Wednesday in November, but usually Keoki’s managers will schedule it before they get busy with Thanksgiving.

DeCosta said that, with Halloween out of the way, Keoki’s leaders are already well into the start of planning out their holiday scheduling.

“We don’t know exactly what we’re going to be doing yet, but in the past we’ve done something for all the concierge on the South Shore,” she said.

The serving of Thanksgiving lunch signals the start of the holiday time for Keoki’s, and DeCosta said it’s good because the manager wants to do more community projects next year.

Keoki’s leaders also honor outstanding educators and staff at Koloa School, and do other community-outreach programs such as participating in the Koloa School Career Day event.

“This is community,” DeCosta said.

At the restaurant, DeCosta said the dinner business has been busier than last year, a good sign since this is normally a slow time of year in terms of visitor arrivals.

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