Grant helps students help others

KALAHEO – Easter will be a little brighter for those who would otherwise not have a visit from the Easter Bunny.

“How can they feel good about themselves when the place is not so cheery?” one 4-H student queried Kaua‘i 4-H coordinator Laura Kawamura following a visit to the Salvation Army this week.

“How can we help? What can we do?” came the call.

Kalaheo School A-Plus students descended on the Salvation Army Lihu‘e Corps Wednesday afternoon to decorate the dining room in preparation for the Kokua Soup Kitchen lunch held yesterday. That meal preceded Easter Sunday and featured a menu including baked ham with scalloped potatoes.

Kawamura secured a grant that launched an after school program that involves not only 4-H students, but students in other organizations as well. The APlus students took part in the decorating with the help of the grant.

Kawamura said the students told her that if you are in a cheery place, you feel good about yourself, and that might help get you back on your feet.

Kalaheo School is in the jurisdiction of the Salvation Army Hanapepe Corps, so their involvement with Easter was multi-faceted in that they worked to provide patrons Easter goodies for the Lihu‘e Kokua Soup Kitchen lunch as well as helping with the first serving for the Salvation Army Hanapepe Corps Kokua Soup Kitchen the Monday after Easter.

Barbara Bloemke, the A-Plus teacher for the fifth-grade students, explained that the students started working on this project several weeks ago, creating their decorations and baskets.

In addition to creating decorations and making Easter baskets for the youngsters, Bloemke said the students started a “Soup for the Soup Kitchen” drive with the hope of collecting at least 100 cans of soup to present to the Hanapepe Corps on the occasion of their first serving Monday.

This number was surpassed, as, while decorating the Lihu‘e Corps’ dining room Bloemke said, they had already collected 150 cans of soup plus other canned items that people brought in.

Deadline for the soup collection is Monday morning, and Bloemke estimates that their students from the third, fourth, and fifth grades will deliver about 175 cans of soup to Hanapepe.

Additionally, Bloemke said that fourth-grade students spent their day baking up cookies to distribute to the Hanapepe Corps program. The cookies, decorations, and soup collection will all be delivered Monday afternoon.

Following the decorating session in Lihu‘e, the fifth-grade students returned to the Kalaheo campus where they were joined by students in the third and fourth grades as they decorated eggs that were picked up by the Lihu‘e Corps’ Kitchen Manager Cecilia Perreira for yesterday’s lunch.

“We couldn’t have done it without the volunteers,” Bloemke said.

On Wednesday, Bloemke’s aide, who was supposed to watch the class while she accompanied the decorating party, didn’t come to work. That prompted her to recruit a volunteer on campus to watch the students so she could complete the decorating in Lihu‘e.

Additionally, Bloemke said, all the cooking had to take place in a certified kitchen.

“We couldn’t have done it without the help of Earl Ozaki, the Kalaheo School cafeteria manager,” Bloemke said. “We put the cookies in the refrigerator after the students made them, and Earl baked them all. He also cooked all the eggs that were also stored in the refrigerator.” Lynne Tamashiro, one of the students’ parents, also turned out to help prepare for the Easter celebration for the Kokua Soup Kitchen patrons as did Addie Fleming, one of the Kalaheo School staff members.

Kalaheo School is the first group to step forward to help the Hanapepe Corps program that will serve its first meal on Monday, and Kawamura is excited about approaching the high schools to see if there are organizations there willing to take on these types of service projects.

In addition to providing service to the Kokua Soup Kitchen program, Kawamura said the students learn about the facility’s operation and how they can help make a difference.

“The children are incredible,” Mitham Clement of the Salvation Army said as he watched the students dive enthusiastically into their tasks. “They make a difference to the patrons who really appreciate the extra touch.” Kawamura said that on one visit by 4-H club members, who turned out to help serve meals, the plight of needy people really hit home when the students recognized several of the patrons.

“Feeling hungry is something no one thinks about,” Kawamura said. “But when you see someone you actually know, it makes you stop and think.” Following this, the 4-H students told her they would like to see this program continue long after they graduate.

“It’s a way of giving back,” they told her.

The Kokua Soup Kitchen serves about 50 people during its twice-weekly service that includes dinner on Tuesday nights and lunch on Thursdays.

Hanapepe Corps currently serves about 100-150 people weekly through its pantry program said Larry Groenleer, and he anticipates a strong showing for their service which begins Monday and weekly thereafter.

• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) and dfujimoto@kauaipubco.com

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