The heart of a community

LIHUE — Marlena and Danny Bunao wanted to give children around the world gifts for Christmas.

On Saturday, a thief tried to ruin those plans. It didn’t work.

“I just want people to know what kind of heart there is in this community,” said Pastor Phyllis Meighen. “We’re close to what we lost.”

Stored in Lihue United Church’s greenhouse were dozens of bags of recycled cans and bottles that were going to be used to raise money to pay for the shipment of 100 boxes to children across the globe as part of the Samaritan’s Purse shoebox ministry known as Operation Christmas Child.

When Marlena opened the door to the greenhouse, the bags were gone; about $300 worth of recycling goods.

“We were so surprised,” she said. “We just said ‘No way.’ We were so shocked. We’ve been taking these recycles since January.”

Heartbroken, Marlena and Danny contacted the church and tried to come up with a new plan. After all, they didn’t want to disappoint the children.

“Our church does this thing every Christmas and we gather donations from the church with toys and stuffed animals and things children could use,” Marlena said. “Small little things. The youth wanted to do this. We didn’t want to discourage them.”

After their letter explaining what happened was published in TGI, the community responded, said Marlena.

What was an empty greenhouse now has 38 bags of recycled bottles and cans after just one day as of Thursday afternoon. It’s an accomplishment that left Marlena speechless.

“I’m amazed,” she said. “I got texts from our pastor right now saying that people are responding and are dropping off bags full of recycles. It’s so amazing.”

The goal for the church is to raise $900 to pay for the shipping costs of the 100 boxes.

But even when Lihue United Church reaches it’s $900 goal, they’ve decided to keep collecting since the burglary happened.

“This will get us toward our youth’s goal, but this shoebox ministry is actually a cause that a lot of churches on the island are involved in,” Meighen said. “So whatever comes in, we will contribute to other church’s goals since it’s the same thing. When this happened, I just said to people ‘You just wait and see what God does with this’ because the love is going to pour out.”

Recyclables can be dropped off at the church office Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4:30 pm.

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