LIHU’E — Lucas J. Calves, 39, of Puhi, and Ernest Aguinaldo, 69, of Koloa, attended yesterday’s 40th Annual Salvation Army Thanksgiving Luncheon at the Kaua’i War Memorial Convention Hall, for different reasons.
But they were both thankful to be there, they said.
Calves, unemployed and houseless and hurting from body injuries that require medication, has been down on his luck, and welcomed a sumptuous serving of warm turkey with all the trimmings.
Aguinaldo attended the gathering as a way to get his first holiday-related turkey meal of the year, before joining other family members for a Thanksgiving Day dinner today, Thursday, Nov. 24, at his mother’s house in Makaweli.
Both men were among nearly 400 Kaua’i residents who attended the yearly event, which serves to provide a warm holiday meal in a festive setting for the elderly and needy of Kaua’i, and to usher in the holiday season.
Calves said he is houseless, although he keeps his personal goods at his parents’ place in Puhi, and is trying to qualify for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development rental-subsidy program administered by officials with the county Offices of Community Assistance County Housing Agency.
Calves said he is unemployed, but has worked as a groundskeeper and as a kitchen cleaner.
He bemoans the fact that the people who are helping him the most are old.
“My dad is 77 years old, and my mother is 67 years old. They are old,” he said as he waited for his meal to be served.
He has three children from three different relationships, and they won’t be sharing a Thanksgiving Day dinner with him.
“I wish I had a house and family. But I am grateful for what I have,” he said.
Calves said he is in constant pain and has to take medication. He said he is still taking medication for a head injury he suffered in an assault at Salt Pond Beach Park about a decade ago.
He also has nerve damage to his legs, the result of injections he has taken as a result of pain in his feet.
He also recently had surgery on his right shoulder.
He wishes he could have the kind of Thanksgiving dinner most people will have. “Am I going to have Thanksgiving dinner (today)?” he asked. “No. I am probably going to have a turkey TV dinner.”
Aguinaldo said he was very appreciative of the chance to attend the event, to eat a free turkey meal, to socialize, and to bring in the holiday season.
“I took the bus into town with other seniors from Koloa,” he said. “It was nice.”
He said he has led a full life, is grateful for all the things he has done, and that the Thanksgiving luncheon allowed him to reflect peacefully on his life.
Aguinaldo, 69, worked as a planter for Grove Farm, and as a frontend payload operator for McBryde Sugar Company, for 46 years before retiring.
Aguinaldo said the luncheon was a tune-up for the Thanksgiving Day dinner he is going to have today at his mother’s home in Kaumakani.
Aguinaldo met Eugene Ballesteros, 82, of ‘Oma’o, for the first time, on the bus he and other seniors took to the event from Koloa.
Ballesteros, who was an irrigator for Kekaha Sugar Company for 10 years, said he was attending the Thanksgiving luncheon for the first time, and that he “liked it.”
The singing by Larry Rivera and his family, and the performance by the Ladies of Lei Mokihana Na Kupuna O Kaua’i, filled his heart with joy, he said with a broad smile.
Unlike in past years, the floor of the hall was not clogged with folks eating, exchanging holiday cheer and taking in entertainment by local musicians.
That was because more people from the Westside of Kaua’i probably attended a similar The Salvation Army Thanksgiving luncheon in Hanapepe.
Mayor Bryan J. Baptiste cut the ceremonial turkey, mingled with those in the crowd, and periodically stopped to talk with the needy and seniors, and asked how they were doing.
“This (the event) means that Kaua’i takes care of its less-fortunate, and that when people come together, they realize they are one family on the island, and they have a responsibility, or kuleana, toward this family,” he said.
Baptiste said he hopes his efforts to establish the first emergency and transition shelter for the homeless in Lihu’e, and to build more affordable housing, will help the needy in big ways in years ahead.
Laurie Yoshida, Gov. Linda Lingle’s liaison on Kaua’i, said she was happy to attend the event, to show support for the needy, and to bring holiday cheer to them.
“This event for me is an opportunity for Kaua’i’s people to show their aloha spirit and their sense of ‘ohana, and the need to take care of our citizens in our community,” she said.
“It is an opportunity for everyone, of course, to give thanks for the blessings that we do have, and to be just thankful living on this beautiful island,” Yoshida said.
The residents who attended yesterday’s event were greeted by 10 representatives from various branches of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. Food was served by two dozen students with the Kapa’a High School Interact Club and other youths.
Among those on hand as well were state Sen. Gary Hooser, D-Kaua’i-Ni’ihau, who passed out food; James Itamura, a deputy county attorney and the Kauai Advisory Board chairman of The Salvation Army; Nancy Budd and Trinette Kaui, both members of the 2005 Thanksgiving Luncheon Committee and The Salvation Army Kauai Advisory Board; Ellie Lloyd, the vice chairperson of The Salvation Army Kauai Advisory Board, various members from both groups, and The Salvation Army’s Capt. Mitham Clement.
- Lester Chang, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 225) or email@example.com