Dishing up Thanksgiving early

HANAPEPE — Despite his medical setback, Steven Hoy focuses on the positive.

Like the support he feels when a community comes together in the name of sharing, helping and caring.

“I think events like this always kind of remind me, even though what I’m dealing with, everyday there’s much to be thankful for,” said Hoy, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease, while he waited to be served at the free Thanksgiving community meal at the Kauai War Memorial Conventional Hall on Wednesday. “As long as I can remember, in my younger years, I’d always be able to count on the Salvation Army.”

The nonprofit hosted the 52nd annual event, both in Lihue and Hanapepe, where nearly 1,000 people attended between both sites. The community events weren’t just about feeding people in need of a meal, but a chance for the community to come together, talk story and mingle on the day before the long holiday weekend. Besides volunteers serving up plates of turkey, potatoes and all the fixings, prizes were raffled off.

One of which Hoy won.

“You see,” he said as his ticket number 136 was called, earning him a $10 gift certificate to Longs Drugs. “That’s just a classic example of something to be thankful for.”

In Hanapepe, hundreds of people streamed in, leaving volunteers to make extra space for the big crowd.

“We ran out of tables and had to set up several more,” said Lt. Nayomia Anderson, helping out with the Westside luncheon. “We should have about 350 meals served when everything is done.”

The annual event marks the start of the holiday season with the launch of the Red Kettles coming Friday night. The lunch comes together with the support of numerous businesses and groups, including the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort and Spa who prepared the turkey and fixings.

“I’m so thankful to be here,” said Teghan Braun of Canada, on a mission trip helping at the Hanapepe event, who said he was wowed by the atmosphere around the gathering. “The people here are amazing.”

In Lihue, Carol Beardmore was one of the diners. She works at the Kauai Independent Food Bank and said she understands the need some people have around the holidays, but also understood how neighbors are generous with one another on the island. 

“This is a very, very special time of the year,” she said from her seat at a crowded table. “The Kauai people are so generous. Even if they don’t have very much themselves, they will reach and help the less fortunate. We are very blessed for the caring in the Kauai community.”

Nicholas Yamamoto, a Kapaa High School senior, volunteered to serve meals in Lihue, where diners sat at long tables and had food brought to them. He said it was a little shocking seeing so many people who might not have many holiday options attend the event. Still, he said it felt good to help and see people appreciate the effort.

“It’s a good thing for people to come to,” he said. 

Some people said the Lihue turnout seemed less than years past. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either.

“The economy is a little better,” said one man, who didn’t want to give his name because of the perceived stigma attached with accepting a free meal.

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