HANAPEPE — “We didn’t come here for lunch. We came to help,” said Deeann Kundysek, who with her children Kennedy and Waverly, and dad Herman Isaacs, and friend Gianna D’Annibale of Lihu’e, waited outside The Salvation Army Hanapepe Corps while the annual Thanksgiving luncheon was being dished out.

Members of the Kundysek family had arrived on Kaua’i from Dallas, Texas, on Friday, along with Isaacs, a retired pastor who hails from Stillwell, Okla.

After learning at the Po’ipu Holiday Festival about the annual Salvation Army community luncheon, they decided to make it a part of their stay on Kaua’i.

But, when the family arrived at the Hanapepe Corps, there was an abundance of volunteers who were already delegated into areas of responsibility, so Lt. Larry Groenleer suggested that they have lunch and help with the cleanup.

“For those occasions which cause us to humble ourselves, and for the strength that has come to us in our hour of weakness and despair, we rejoice and give thanks.”

That phrase out of the opening prayer led by Lt. Joy Groenleer at the Hanapepe Corps annual luncheon made everyone realize that Thanksgiving is not just about the turkey,

It is about people.

Beauty surrounds the island daily, and reasons for being thankful abound, if people take the time to look for them, Lt. Larry Groenleer said.

Lt. Larry Groenleer said that this year’s event had meals budgeted for about 300 people, the majority coming from the five senior centers from Kalaheo to Kekaha.

Leaders at the Hanapepe Corps were more concerned about people who could not attend the event.

Richard Wheelock covered that concern, as he had the responsibility to put together his “delivery” of lunches that were destined to homebound residents in Kaumakani, Pakala, and Waimea.

However, Wheelock’s chores are not limited to Thanksgiving, as he said that, with the help of Dan Chapp, the pair make deliveries every Tuesday after the Kauai Food Bank driver drops off the weekly allocation from the Senior Produce Program.

“Most of these people are elderly widows who are homebound,” Wheelock said. “They have no way of getting these things.”

Additionally, Lt. Larry Groenleer said that, yesterday, Wheelock expanded his route to check the beaches to see if there were any homeless people and members of families who needed some food.

As the hall resounded with the sounds of laughter and music from the entertainers who hailed from each of the senior centers, J Robertson, the host for the day, explained that, for those fortunate enough to attend the event, it was a preview of the annual Senior Extravaganza.

“They’re good. They can each sing and dance the hula, too,” one volunteer noted while waiting for the food to arrive.

Chefs at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa in Po’ipu prepared the food, which arrived via truck in special food-delivery containers.

One volunteer noted how special it was that the Hyatt folks would do this for members of the community, considering they had their hands full with the 23rd PGA Grand Slam of Golf that was in its final day of play yesterday.

Greg Meyers, a volunteer from the Legal Aid Society of Hawaii, said that, following his volunteering at the luncheon, he and his wife were planning to take in the final stages of play at that event.

Outside the arena of excitement, Maile Kanahele quietly sat with a young child. Lt. Larry Groenleer said that Kanahele and her sister Emma Kanahele are the quiet forces that make events such as the community luncheons a success.

He said that the two sisters are at the Hanapepe Corps every week for four days, doing a variety of chores and tasks to keep the facility spic-and-span. Maile Kanahele, on this day, was tending to one of the Groenleers’ children, while her sister Emma Kanahele dove in with the rest of the volunteers to help dole out the food.

They were some of the last to enjoy the meals.

Other volunteers poured in from The Hanapepe Salvation Army Home League, the Lihue Baptist Church, the Hanapepe station of the Kaua’i Fire Department, Aqua Engineers, the Rotary Club of West Kauai, the West Kauai Lions Club, the Waimea High School Leo Club, and a group of Menehune students directed by Joy Canute.

“She won a package of toilet paper, but look at her. She’s so excited that she won something,” said Marsha Olmarza, one of the Rotarian volunteers, as she watched her mother, Gloria, enjoy the prize.

Lt. Larry Groenleer also pointed out a young boy who was walking around cradling a 20-pound sack of rice that he had just won in a lucky-number drawing.

Besides those at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa, contributions from owners and operators of community businesses put smiles on the faces of everyone present.

These institutions included Foodland Kauai, Big Save, Inc., Collectibles and Fine Junque, Kauai Coffee Co., Captain Andy’s, Kauai Kookie Kompany, Jacqueline of Kauai, Santa’s Vacation Hale, Eddie’s Hairstyle, Bobbies Restaurant, and the Camp House Grill.

For the Groenleers, it was a day of being thankful for being surrounded by the ocean of volunteers, a hall full of laughing, smiling people, and, for Lt. Joy Groenleer, it was a homecoming for the girl born in Kekaha who graduated from Waimea High School.

For Lt. Larry Groenleer, it was a time to wish that community feeds could take place more frequently, not just at Thanksgiving.


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