HANALEI — Lianne Kobayashi, Hanalei’s postmistress, was having “one of those days.”
The mail was late. And when it finally arrived at the Hanalei post office, it was the typical deluge of holiday mail.
Kobayashi said there were 5,000 to 6,000 letters, another 3,000 periodicals, and between 250 and 260 parcels coming in with another thousand that needed to go out from her station.
“I was frustrated,” she told the Hanalei School assembly of 216 students and their teachers and staff.
“On top of that, it was the deadline for the letter-writing contest.”
After work, Kobayashi, while looking at the stack of entries from the contest hosted by her and others at the post office, decided she would look at some of them.
“Some made me laugh. Some made me almost cry. The cards were wonderful,” she told the audience. “It made me realize that, despite that frustrating day, it was all worth it. It made my day! It was so nice.”
That feeling is what letterwriting is about, Kobayashi told the students.
“Whether it’s your grandmother, your brother or sister, or your best friend, people get excited when they receive a letter.”
Kobayashi explained to the students that community helpers are always there, sometimes to the point of being taken for granted. “What better time than the holidays for people to honor these community helpers?” she said.
This was the fourth annual contest.
Coordinating with Hanalei School librarian Sue Meyer, Kobayashi set up the contest so that the students wrote letters and cards to firemen, policemen, water-safety officers, and the military.
“My heroes, I will always be thankful for what you do Loving hero, for keeping our country free I like how you make me feel safe from war Takes care of us by not making the war come here Always doesn’t give up Risk your lives for us at war You’re super for leaving your families and saving our country.
Merry Christmas!” That passage by fourth-grader Berit Chan Hsu earned her the grand prize, announced by Kobayashi.
Kiana Taylor and Kyle Leibow were the kindergarten winners, with Starlise Pearson and Cali Hoy topping the grade one letters.
Ezikio Quintana and Kira Foxes had the best grade-two letters, Tiffany Spencer was the third-grade winner, and Emily Faretta was the winner for grades three and four.
Maria Fish had the best fourth-grade letter, with Ilisha Fu topping grade five, and Danielle Jackson getting the award for grade six.
Kobayashi explained that, in addition to the grand prize, each class had a winner, and with the help of her mother, Hazel Kobayashi, and postal clerk Sharla Kalauawa, each student in school as well as staff members and teachers, were given gifts to enjoy.
Additionally, students deposited gifts to be sent to members of the military serving abroad, bringing them onto the cafeteria stage area as they trooped into the cafeteria, including one student who discreetly deposited a dollar amidst the packages and goodies.
“How sweet,” Kobayashi said of the gesture. She gathered up the gifts, and explained that Kalauawa has an address where the gifts will be mailed so soldiers will be able to enjoy them for the holidays.
In the four years since she started the contest, Kobayashi said this year’s entries were especially poignant.
“I was totally blown away. I read every letter, and this was the hardest year to determine a winner. I’m so proud of the students’ creativity.”
Following the gathering, representatives from each of the honored community helpers were called up to receive their respective letters and lei from the students, one fireman from the Kaua’i Fire Department Hanalei station telling the students, “We appreciate being appreciated.
Thank you, and Merry Christmas!”
- Dennis Fujimoto, staff writer and photographer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or email@example.com.