Most would agree that under ideal circumstances, Christmas dinner is best enjoyed at home, surrounded by family and friends, savoring course after course of delicious homemade food. But when the key ingredient — a home — is missing, Kaua‘i’s homeless don’t have to go without the rest of the Christmas traditions.
For the third year in a row, the Jewish Community of Kaua‘i has organized the preparation and serving of Christmas dinner to clients of the Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity’s Mana‘olana Emergency Homeless Shelter and Transitional Housing program.
Organized by Dr. Lisa Splittstoesser, Jewish Community members prepared the multi-course dinner, complete with four turkeys, a ham, a brisket, mashed potatoes, stuffing, dinner rolls, salad, a green-bean casserole and other side dishes, several desserts, and a selection of juices and sodas. There was enough food contributed for Mana‘olana residents to enjoy seconds and thirds and still have leftovers for the days to come.
Mana‘olana is equipped with a kitchen that includes a big enough refrigerator to hold the leftovers and residents of the 19-bed emergency shelter have access to the kitchen daily from 6 p.m. until 10 p.m. The facility serves approximately 540 individuals annually.
Because Christmas is not a holiday observed and celebrated by Jews the way it is by Christians, the Jewish Community saw this as an opportunity to help Mana‘olana residents and staff enjoy Christmas with a special Christmas meal.
In addition to the meal, Jewish Community members also decorated the facility with festive Christmas decorations, and distributed Christmas gifts for the children of the shelter families.
Before serving the dinner, JCK’s Marty Kahn introduced the volunteers and taught the residents a Hebrew song called “Shalom, Haverim,” which means “Peace, Friends.” A little later, as residents were enjoying their meal, they were entertained by guest flutist Gigi Shanley, who came to play Christmas carols for them.
During the rest of the year, Mana‘olana dinners for 19 guests are organized and served by other organizations and churches on a rotating basis. But, according to Mana‘olana director Fatima Gaboy, not all the meals are covered and additional help is needed.
Gaboy said she is grateful to those who already have made a commitment to help, but would like to hear from others who would like to organize and serve meals, either on a regular or occasional basis. She can be contacted at 245-7692.
Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization whose mission is to alleviate poverty on Kaua‘i. Providing emergency and transitional housing is just one of its many programs.
• Vera Benedek is a journalist who recently moved back to Hawai‘i from Alaska. She and her husband, Russ Josephson, helped serve dinner at Mana‘olana on Christmas Day.