County celebrates end of first Lunch Buddies session

Kaua‘i County employees celebrated the Big Brothers Big Sisters Lunch Buddies program at Elsie Wilcox Elementary School Friday.

Thirteen employees serving as “Bigs” and their respective “Littles” from Wilcox School had a special lunch together to mark the end of the first session of the Lunch Buddies program.

The pairs have been meeting for lunch for about two months and engaging in an activity together such as drawing, playing games or going for walks.

For Theresa Koki, the county’s anti-drug coordinator, the Lunch Buddies program was an eye-opening experience.

“Even though I raised four children of my own, I believe that every generation has to deal with a different set of issues,” Koki said. “In the Lunch Buddies program, I learned about the struggles that young children these days have to deal with.”

She also noted that being in upper elementary is a confusing time for a lot of students because of the physical transition to adulthood.

“During our lunchtime together, the children seemed to forget about their problems and just had fun with us,” Koki said. “In turn, they have brought so much joy into our lives.”

The Big Brothers Big Sisters program was launched on Kaua‘i at the beginning of the year and is integral to the Kaua‘i Community Drug Response Plan. It provides mentoring opportunities that promote a drug-free life.

About 15 Kapa‘a High School students signed up for the mentoring program in January and served as volunteer mentors to Kapa‘a Elementary School students.

“We’re hoping that community service groups as well as individuals will embrace the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and volunteer to serve as mentors,” Mayor Bryan Baptiste said. “The more people volunteer to help our children, the stronger our community will become.”

This session’s county participants included Carol Saiki-Paler and Naomi Sugihara of the Agency on Elderly Affairs, Jim Tagupa and Owen Tango of the County Attorney’s Office, Rena Ulanday of the Department of Finance, William Trujillo of Parks & Recreation, Emily Ishida of Public Works, Jeff Mendez of the Department of Water, Sharon Kelekoma of the Housing Agency, Theresa Koki and Soncy Tamashiro of the Mayor’s Office, and Beth Tokioka and Art Umezu of the Office of Economic Development.

For more information about the county’s anti-drug programs, contact Koki at 241-6312 or

For more information about the program, contact Michelle Shofner at 631-9495 or


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