KILAUEA — Tom Pickett of Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza juggled between customers’ food orders and books Thursday at the Kong Lung shopping complex.
He got some help from Yen Upson, president of the Kilauea Elementary School PTSA, but didn’t know if that was help as Jennifer Antony, the vice president of the Kilauea School PTSA, showed up with an armful of books.
“There is no shortage of books,” said Pickett, settling customers with their orders. “Helen Mitsui of the Christ Memorial Church Shared Blessing Thrift Shop, located across the Shell gas station in Kilauea, makes sure we have books each week. And there are the Kilauea School parents who always have books.”
Amidst the activity of customers juggling orders and the arrival of guests with books, Pickett handed Upson a check for $593, representing the latest contribution of The Kilauea Bakery Bookshelf to the Kilauea School PTSA for the purpose of advancing literacy.
“Tom has always been a supporter of literacy,” said Upson, who was accompanied by her son Zachary. “He and his bakery manager Derek Gandia came up with this idea and talked to us about supporting literacy.”
Pickett said people and their keiki are constantly raising money for one activity or another.
“When Borders Books and Music closed, I went down there on the last day they were selling stuff and got the last three bookshelves,” Pickett said. “I don’t know why I went. It was Sunday and I had to fight the traffic to get there, but I got whatever was left.”
One of those bookshelves was placed at Kilauea Bakery and Pau Hana Pizza, prominently displayed in the food court area labelled “The Kilauea Bakery Bookshelf.” Books were added through the efforts of Mitsui and Francis from The Salvation Army, and the books were sold for $2 each.
“All of the money is donated to the Kilauea School PTSA for a reading program,” Pickett said. “Since we started the program, we have paid them more than $7,000 since September.”
Upson said Pickett approached them with the idea a few weeks after school had started, and since that discussion it has already helped pay for one Reading Mastery teacher cut by the state Department of Education due to budget cutbacks.
“He also has a special on our Facebook page where if anyone brings in 20 books or more, he’ll give them a free coffee and cookie,” Upson said. “We promote that on our Facebook to help keep his shelves filled.”
Pickett said his Kilauea Bakery people fill the shelves on a daily basis and has not had a problem getting books.
“This has become a huge boon for the PTSA and the kids of Kilauea,” Pickett said. “I want to help kids learn to read and I want them to value books. There are few places to buy books on Kaua‘i and books are kind of getting forgotten amidst all the iPhones and iPads. There are tons of books in thrift stores, and if you put the books in the right place and they sell, the money can go to help kids learn to read instead of text.”
Pickett said he wants other people to copy this success story, and if other business people in other parts of the island want to start a similar venture, he welcomes an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“If people read about the idea, maybe it can be shared and duplicated in other communities,” he said. “They can call me, or better yet, email me.
Upson said the beauty of this program is that it’s not just one time in the year, it’s every day.
• Dennis Fujimoto, photographer and staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 253) or dfujimoto@ thegardenisland.com.