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Mahelona volunteers light up holidays for residents

KAPAA — Christmas is a feeling, said Josie Pablo, recreation director at the Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital.

“I don’t have any family here,” said Dino Bandalion of Kona, Hawaii, a Mahelona Hospital resident. “They’re coming to visit soon. We’re not having anything fancy, but come — I want you to meet my family. We’re just having pizza because I like pizza. Are there any pizza places open on Christmas?”

Pablo said the holiday season is a sad time for the hospital’s residents.

“This year, in an effort to bring holiday cheer for our residents, I came up with the idea of lighting up the courtyard area with lots and lots of Christmas lights, Christmas decorations, inflatables, and more,” she said. “The hope is that the residents can go out in the courtyard and enjoy the lights, and feel loved during the holidays.”

Tuesday, work on realizing this dream started as volunteers joined the hospital staff and members of the Mahelona Hospital Auxiliary in making this effort a reality.

Laine Griffith, director of the Kalaheo School Sunshine Express, opened its “A Dickens Of A Christmas” production at the hospital’s auditorium to the enjoyment of both residents, volunteers, and staff.

“This is the start of the holiday season for us,” Pablo said. “For the past 21 years, Mr. Griffith has brought his kids to entertain our residents. This officially starts our holidays.”

Headlining the effort, Pablo said is Ms. Sharon Gibson from the Young Professionals Network of the Kauai Board of Realtors.

“They were here Monday to make Christmas ornaments for the residents and start decorating their tree,” Pablo said. “Not only that — they raised money so we could go out and shop for lights and decorations.”

Neva Olson was having a problem juggle between the Rotary Club of Kapaa and the Zonta Club.

“We’re going to have three trees? All outfitted with outdoor lights?” Olson wanted to know. “I have two hats and have trouble keeping track of who is doing what.”

John Oszust, president of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, said the organization did the landscape project for the hospital, and needed to be part of this effort.

“We have four trees, one big one and several smaller ones,” said Monica Oszust, Rotary Club of Hanalei president-elect. “A lot of the items were donated for our big garage sale in February, but there’s not much use for Christmas things in February.”

Marissa Sandblom of the Grove Farm Company said they became involved after hearing about Pablo’s goal through Wanda Shibata of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Hawaii.

“Sharyl Lam Yuen’s son did a picnic table for the residents as a Boy Scout Eagle Project,” Sandblom said. “At first, we thought they only needed funds. But this is good because when completed, it’s such a safe place where kids are able to enjoy this ‘walking’ tour and all the lights. Sharyl wants lots of lights.”

The project comes to fruition Friday when Mahelona Hospital hosts a lighting ceremony for all of its residents and sponsors of the event. The display will be up through the month of December.

“I can’t even begin to express how deeply grateful I am for the overwhelming support we received from the community,” Pablo said. “All of you surely made the holiday season a happier one for all our residents.”

Sponsors include the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, the Mahelona Hospital, the Rotary Club of Kapaa, the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, the Zonta Club, the Grove Farm Company, the Kauai Filipino Women’s Club, the Kauai Region Ho‘olaule‘a employees association, and volunteers, including Wilma Chandler and Geri Bulosan.

The Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Safeway, and Aaron’s Kitchen provided the refreshments, the Kauai Hospice Choir and Excel! Dance Studio offered entertainment, and Jim Jung will sit in with Santa for pictures with Kimo the Horse and Santa’s Sleigh, thanks going to Patrick Ching.

“Christmas isn’t a season,” Pablo said. “It’s a feeling. You know me — go big or go home.”


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