Chicken and gravy warms Hanapepe hearts

HANAPEPE — “We’ve been getting the word out slowly, so they were ready for us,” Lt. Larry Groenleer of The Salvation Army Hanapepe Corps said Monday evening.

For the past several weeks, Lts. Larry and Joy Groenleer have been notifying their clients of the first community service for their Kokua Soup Kitchen.

Within 30 minutes of the opening at 5 p.m., Lt. Larry Groenleer said they had served up 50 plates with a full 30 minutes remaining on the scheduled opening time slot.

“People were expecting this, and so they came,” Lt. Joy Groenleer said, pleased with the turnout.

“We’ve had several dry runs with members of the board, but this is the first day we’re open to the community,” Lt. Larry Groenleer explained.

“Everything is going smoothly thanks to the volunteers,” Lt. Larry Groenleer said.

“Chef Ricky Butay has been phenomenal. He’s got the training, and now, people can taste what his talents can produce.”

Ricky Butay normally works at Kauai Pasta in Waipouli, but coincides his day off to lead the culinary preparation at the Hanapepe Corps, where he and his family normally attend church.

“This is very successful,” Butay said. “During the dry runs, we had more simple fare like spaghetti, but now, with the volunteers, we can do more. This will do good.”

Butay indicated that, as the volunteer servers become more familiar with their work, he’ll try and prepare more “local-style” offerings.

For the initial community service, oven-baked mushroom chicken headlined the offering, complemented by a side dish of corn and fresh vegetable salad, the aroma of the chicken and corn combining to create a warm feeling of home as it drifted on the winds through-out the parking lot that over-flowed onto the street.

“It’s a Green Garden dessert,” said volunteer Phil Laidlaw, who was volunteering with his wife, Lucia, while enjoying his fruit cocktail.

Additionally, Kalaheo School A-Plus after-school-program students made a batch of sugar cookies for the occasion, and had the cookies as well as 164 cans of soup delivered well in advance for the opening.

The Groenleers said the students also made the center-pieces for the tables.

“There’s a lot of love in this,” said Cayetano Butay, Ricky Butay’s uncle, as he doled out a portion of rice for yet another plate.

“We come to church here, so we volunteer whenever we can.”

Sylvia Koshi was on hand with the other volunteers getting a feel for the routine so she could bring back feedback to members of the Kalaheo Missionary Church, who have indicated their willingness to help on the first Monday of each month.

Gene Redden of the United States Marine Corps League is the volunteer coordinator at the Hanapepe soup kitchen, reassuring Koshi, “I’m going to be here until we’re up and running real well.”

Redden, who was instrumental in opening the Lihu’e Corps’ Kokua Soup Kitchen last year (shepherd’s pie was the main dish in Lihu’e yesterday), said the response to opening day was good, but volunteers are still needed to help with the preparation and serving on Mondays.

Those interested in helping should call him at 652-3670.

Puna Pikini of the Kapaa Missionary Church was one of the volunteers on hand to help. “I want to urge the young people to come out and help serve,” Pikini said.

“It’s a good feeling to see the smiles on the faces of the people, and the other volunteers are not getting younger.”

Earlier in the week, Laura Kawamura of the 4-H program that funded the project head-lined by the Kalaheo School A-Plus students had indicated that the problem of being hungry and needed hit home when 4-H volunteers recognized familiar people and faces during their volunteer stint at one of The Salvation Army meals.

Lt. Larry Groenleer said that, with the start of the hot-meal program on Mondays, the schedule for their pantry food distribution will change from Tuesdays to Thursdays from noon to 2 p.m.

With the serving of hot meals, Lt. Larry Groenleer said he felt that people would have more balance in their food supplies with the new distribution schedule.

Additionally, Lt. Joy Groenleer said a grand opening celebration is scheduled for May 15, the first day of National Salvation Army Week.

Guests and dignitaries will be invited to a special midday service due to confidentiality issues with the kitchen’s clients. The normal service for clients will take place at 5 p.m.

Lt. Larry Groenleer also announced that senior citizens from throughout the island are invited to their Annual Senior Luncheon, which will take place on April 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

“The senior centers are aware of this luncheon, but we want to make sure all seniors are welcome from anywhere on the island,” Lt. Joy Groenleer said.

“It’s free to the seniors, and Bobby’s Restaurant will be doing the catering.”

As diners began departing, two of them noted that they were from Lihu’e, and “just happened to be in the neighborhood” Monday.

But, they explained that, with the price of gas going up, again, they’ll visit the Lihu’e program.

Another diner smiled to the Lts. Groenleer, “I’ll be back next week.”

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