Turkey lunches herald holiday season

Almost 1,300 seats were filled with diners enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving lunch yesterday afternoon at the War Memorial Convention Hall.

The event marked the 43rd Annual Salvation Army Community Thanksgiving Luncheon. Take-out lunches were also available at the Salvation Army, Lihu‘e Corps, according to Capt. Mitham Clement.

Volunteers — including community members, the Zonta Club and 19 members of the Interact Club of Kapa‘a High School — helped serve the prepared plates to the diners who filled the kitchen and meeting hall, overflowing into the main lobby.

Barbara Morrison, who was involved with other community feeds, was one of those volunteers.

“We had a combined effort between the Way of Salvation and the Koloa Church, Sunday night where about 500 homeless people were fed,” said Morrison, who also worked to prepare the turkeys Tuesday. “It was truly a joint effort as Keoki’s Paradise prepared 33 turkeys with the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa doing the mashed potatoes and gravy and the volunteers from the church serving and feeding the people.”

Jim Itamura, a Salvation Army board member, said yesterday’s lunch in Lihu‘e was calculated to have more than what was served last year because of the economic uncertainty in the community.

“Last year, we served 1,100 lunches,” said Clement. “This year, we arranged for about 1,300 places with the tables in the main lobby serving as the overflow.”

More needy were also expected elsewhere in the state for similar financial reasons, according to wire reports. The Salvation Army in Honolulu expects as many as 2,500 to attend its annual Thanksgiving dinner today, some 600 more than previous years.

“I am delighted to be with you today as we pause and reflect upon all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon us,” said Mayor Bill “Kaipo” Asing, who had the honor of carving the ceremonial turkey at the luncheon yesterday.

At the top of that list was the Salvation Army for hosting the luncheon for 43 years.

“Forty-three years. That’s a long time,” Asing said. “Many of you weren’t even born when the Salvation Army served its first Thanksgiving lunch.”

Asing said we have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

“We live in the most beautiful place in the world. The weather here is temperate so it never gets unbearable cold, or extremely hot. We live in a relatively small community where we know many of our neighbors and we take care of each other,” he said. “Here on Kaua‘i, the spirit of giving and sharing is at the core of our existence as evidenced by this gathering today. Our lives have truly been enriched from living in a diverse community where we share our cultures, traditions and beliefs.

“Today, we carry on the tradition set by the pilgrims in 1621 who celebrated their first harvest in the New World with their Native American friends,” he said. “Today, we celebrate Thanksgiving not only with family and friends, but also with those in need in our community.

“Yes, we have our differences. Yes, we have our challenges. But, together, we have accomplished so much,” the mayor said. “And I believe that by continuing to work together, we can do so much more for our community, for our beloved island home. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!”

With a cut of the ceremonial bird and the first bite, Asing signaled the serving lines to open up as Larry Rivera and daughter Ilima teamed with Ilima’s daughters and Richard Beach in keeping the audience in stitches with the impromptu hula and modeling shows.

The Kaua‘i High School Key Club descended on the convention hall following school Tuesday afternoon to set up the tables and specially-prepared banners.

The club had just come off a tour where they spent two of their lunch hours helping prepare utensils for the first-ever Food Fest to benefit the Kaua‘i Food Bank last week.

“We won’t be helping to serve this year,” said Charlene Navarro, the club’s advisor as the group wrapped up their decorating. “But the students worked hard to create the centerpieces out of Cup of Noodles as well as come up with the centerpiece banners above the stage and in the kitchen area.”

A similar luncheon was held at the Hanapepe Corps where seniors from the Kekaha, Hanapepe, Kaumakani, Waimea, Kalaheo and Koloa senior centers provided the entertainment.

Turkeys for the Westside celebration were prepared by the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i while the Kaua‘i Marriott Resort and Beach Club cooked up 60 turkeys and gravy.

Mary McFarland and a volunteer crew from the Kokua Soup Kitchens worked on the stuffing and vegetables while the culinary arts department from Kaua‘i Community College prepared the pumpkin crunch dessert.

“We are so blessed to have the many generous donations from the community each year so that we can join together with family and friends to give thanks,” said Clement.

Faye Akasaki of the Salvation Army Board served as the chair for this year’s luncheon.

With the turkeys settling in hungry stomachs, Clement said the task of manning the Salvation Army kettles begins early tomorrow morning.

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